The Utah Jazz’s roster got a boost Thursday morning when a certain sharpshooting forward became a full participant in the team’s morning practice.
No, people — Bojan Bogdanovic is still not coming back.
We’re talking about Georges Niang, who had yet to go through a full practice since the Jazz arrived at the Disney World campus, due to left ankle soreness.
After the team got through with its latest session, the Iowa State product explained to media in a Zoom call that it was a better-safe-than-sorry situation to have him take it a little easier the past week or so.
“I just rolled my ankle, so we were just taking precautionary steps,” Niang said. “I mean, we don’t play for another 14 days. So, just taking it slow, getting in there to get to full speed.
“Coach also said I was kicking too much ass, so I had to take it easy,” he added with a laugh.
Actually, with Bogdanovic set to miss the rest of the season (“Bojan’s not going to come back and pull a Willis Reed and run onto the court and be able to play,” Quin Snyder said more than a week and a half ago), it would seem the Jazz wouldn’t mind having Niang raining down 3s on everybody.
Still, the forward joined his chorus of teammates in saying he was making it a point to try to not take on too much, to not feel as though he single-handedly has to make up for Bogey’s missing production.
“It looks like there’s going to be more opportunity, but I can only go in there and do what I’m capable of, and fit my role and whatever the team needs me to do. If that’s to shoot corner 3s, if that’s to get guys open shots, then I’m going to do that,” Niang said. “I’ve heard a lot of press about, you know, ‘With Bojan out, what is Niang going to have to step up and do?’ I’m just gonna go out there and be the best me that I can be. There’s no added pressure. I just go out there and try to be me and try to get 1% better every single day.”
All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell doesn’t expect it will take his teammate too much time to get rolling.
For one thing, Mitchell said, Niang has remained a constant presence at practices. And beyond that, he added, Niang isn’t the type to fall behind in his work.
“It kinda doesn’t feel like he’s been missing because he’s always a spark, whether it’s talking or it’s going through drills,” Mitchell said. “And he’s not a guy that it’s gonna take too long to remember plays, remember certain things. So for him, it was really easy to kind of jump right in. And for us, it was like he didn’t miss a beat.”
Niang agreed, saying that he’s been doing whatever he can to ensure that he’s ready to go once the games begin.
“I feel like I’ve been able to get into a rhythm. People don’t understand, not being able to play five-on-five for however long … until we got down here is really different. So getting back into game rhythm, game shape, and making sure I was 100% to do that was just something that I was focused on every day,” Niang said. “I’m glad that I’m back to 100, and ready to keep progressing forward, and like I said, get 1% better every single day.”
In the meantime, he’s been trying to acclimate to the bubble as best he can, just like everyone else.
Niang noted that he’s made extensive use of the training room, and some use of the pool. He’s joined others in some golfing excursions and even some games of Uno. Not so much the video games, though.
“A lot of the guys are video gamers — I’m sure you see it on social media. I don’t play video games, but I can hear them in the room next to me all the time, yelling and screaming, ‘Shoot this guy! Shoot that guy!’” Niang said with a laugh.
“You know, we have great camaraderie as a team, so hanging out with each other, it’s like a 112-day road trip,” he added.