Given that Jordan Clarkson was a late-December trade acquisition, who therefore came in without the benefit of a Utah Jazz training camp, his seemingly seamless transition has been all the more remarkable as a result.
“I got here and we hit the ground running,” Clarkson recalled in a Sunday Zoom call from Orlando. “They welcomed me with open arms.”
The thing is, though, while many have looked at the monthslong hiatus as inherently negative, something that’s robbed teams of whatever momentum they may have had at the time that play was suspended, for players like Clarkson who were new to teams, and for some of their inexperienced teammates, this time off has also proved to be an opportunity to get up to speed.
The high-scoring guard, after all, was able to get together with the likes of Donovan Mitchell, Royce O’Neale, Rayjon Tucker and Miye Oni at the [formerly Mamba] Sports Academy just outside of Los Angeles right before players were required to reconvene in their home markets.
And now, since heading to Orlando, Fla., they’ve all gotten a deep dive into a training camp experience of sorts, as coach Quin Snyder looks to get everyone up and running as soon as possible.
For Clarkson, getting that much more familiar with how his teammates play and how the staff coaches can only be beneficial.
“I worked out with Donovan during this quarantine time. I’ve been in the gym with everybody. As it got closer for us to leave, this bond, this chemistry — we stayed in contact the whole time — it’s just continued to grow and keep the team building,” Clarkson said. “It’s definitely good, though, that we have these two weeks to come out here and practice and get ready. I think it’s all just flowing and we’re keeping the vibes strong.”
Reserve center Tony Bradley, who is in his third year in the league, but his first season of really getting meaningful playing time at the NBA level, agreed that this unconventional in-season training camp will be a big boost for some of the younger and newer players.
“Things have been good, coming back in the bubble and starting off practices and stuff like that,” Bradley said. “Now it’s time for everyone to connect back together and get on the same page, continue on the progress we were making, and pick up where we left off.”
Veteran forward Joe Ingles noted a few days prior how he’s been “really impressed with the IQ of the guys to remember a lot of what we what we wanted to run after having such a big break.”
And Mitchell, that same day, agreed with that assessment — up to and including the young guys.
“Even the rookies have been have been ahead of the game, as well,” he said. “So I think that’s been one of the biggest things for sure.”
While much of the talk about replacing the production of the injured Bojan Bogdanovic has been centered around Conley and Clarkson, Ingles and O’Neale, it’s also been mentioned a few times that, especially in the eight seeding games coming on, we could potentially see some extra minutes given to the likes of Tucker or Oni, as the Jazz figure out how best to throw their main rotation guys back into action.
Should those young guys be called upon, Clarkson has faith that they’ll be ready.
“They’re growing — really fast. I know this [break] could be kind of a little burden in their rookie seasons, or that rookie process, but I think it’s a good thing to happen for them,” Clarkson said. “They’re in a position where they might end up getting minutes, they may get some time — especially with these eight games. You never know what’s going to happen. Those guys, I see a lot of growth; they’ve still got to continue to grow. A lot of ‘em are still playing fast — this is same process that I had to do when I was a rookie, just slowing down, seeing the game. But a lot of ‘em are taking a lot of steps forward.”
Clarkson said he hopes to do the same once the games resume.
He called those runs that the guys got in out in L.A. “beneficial a lot” because it helped him learn some better communication with those teammates, and also provided him an opportunity to learn some of their instincts when they’re “just going out there, getting to hoop.”
Now, whatever coach Quin Snyder has in store for him once the games come back, he believes he can hit the ground running even faster this time.
“I know [Bogdanovic is] a big loss. I know everybody’s gonna have to step up and play their role really well. And for me, it’s just going in there and doing what coach asks me to do — if that’s coming off the bench, if that’s starting, whatever situation it is, I feel like I’m ready,” Clarkson said. “Coaches got a lot of trust in me — and trust in a lot of guys, and I know everybody’s going to step up. We’re going to impact the game and try to get some wins.”