Given that the Utah Jazz haven’t played a game now in four months, and need to re-acclimate to playing together, and need to adjust to the absence of Bojan Bogdanovic, how does coach Quin Snyder prioritize what to emphasize in these initial days in the Orlando bubble?
Turns out, he goes back to the very beginning.
“You kind of assume that because the season’s been going that you don’t have as much to do, because you can keep doing what you’re doing. For us, that was really not the case on a couple levels,” Snyder said in a Zoom call Saturday. “… Early in the year, in training camp, we had so many new players that I coached our team a little bit like a younger team. Looking back on that, I may have done it a little differently. This time, we did do it differently.”
Because the team’s veterans are so familiar with what the coaching staff is asking and expecting of them, Snyder said “we don’t have to spend as much time connecting guys or habits, things like that.”
And so, the Jazz’s first three days of practice have largely been geared toward letting the players simply go out and play.
Largely, but not completely.
It’s unavoidable that Snyder and his staff must find a way to account for the absence of Bogdanovic, whom Snyder said “may be the best catch-and-shoot shooter in the league,” though he quickly added that “Joe [Ingles] would probably dispute that.”
Asked if his plan entails keeping the same playbook and simply inserting different players into Bogey’s role or significantly adapting the plays getting called, the coach replied, “I think a little bit of both.
“… [Jordan Clarkson] can do a lot of things; he’s different off the dribble than Bojan, but there’s there’s some things that we did for Bojan that we can do for J.C. We can do some things for Donovan [Mitchell],” Snyder added. “For us, guys being left-handed or right-handed — we’ve got Mike [Conley] and Joe who are left-handed, and Donovan and J.C. who are right-handed, and they’re the guys that we run the majority of our plays for. Some of those things take a little more time to kind of get right.”
Meanwhile, the coach joined a growing chorus of Jazz personnel saying they expect Conley to play a significant role in replacing the offense the team will miss from Bogdanovic’s absence.
He said that after a lengthy process of getting used to a new team, he felt that Conley had really finally started to grow comfortable in the team’s system in the final 10 games or so before the league went on hiatus. And now, with access to a personal gym and court during the break, Conley has returned in incredible shape, apparently ready and willing to step up and be more aggressive, to play more similarly to how he did as a focal point with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Snyder just doesn’t want him to feel as though he has to single-handedly make up for Bogey’s production.
“He’s key. And having said that, he doesn’t need to feel any pressure, he just needs to play,” Snyder said. “If you look at Mike early in the year, he’s such a good player, he’s a thoughtful player, and you have a situation where you’re really trying to learn a lot of new things, whether it’s the terminology, really as much as anything, connecting with other guys on the team.
“… So I think playing with Donovan, playing with Joe, Bojan, I thought there was a tendency for Mike to try to think too much. I’d certainly contributed to that, because I was trying to learn Mike, he was trying to learn me,” Snyder added. “And I think since he’s come back, there’s more of a comfort level. And that’s allowed him to be more instinctive — that’s what we want from him. He can’t take a bad shot, as far as I’m concerned, and I want him to play like that.”
In fact, the coach said he wants everyone on the team to be similarly confident and aggressive.
Asked what was most important for him to impart on his players now, Snyder replied, “I want them to be confident and not overthink.
“I think our guys need to know that we want ‘em to attack,” he added. “We have some guys that can really go off the dribble and I want [them] shooting 3s. We want to attack. We want to get to the rim.”
Forward Royce O’Neale said it’d been intriguing watching Snyder’s coaching evolution just from the beginning of this season to now.
“You know, with the new team, everybody had to take time to jell together. I think now, coach has adapted to the way everybody plays, missing Bojan, having to adjust the way we play, our style,” he said. “I think coach is adapting in a way that helps us out and play more freely, [though] we still have a lot of structure the way he wants us to play.”