We’re 19 weeks removed now from that crazy night that changed the Utah Jazz, the NBA, and, honestly, pretty much the entire country in general.
It almost seems a lifetime ago, doesn’t it?
And yet here we are, 19 interminable weeks later, on the verge of Utah Jazz basketball again.
A lot has happened in the lead-up to Thursday’s “intra-team scrimmage” between the Jazz and the Phoenix Suns, which will take place at 6 p.m. MT as the last of that day’s four scheduled contests. Maybe not so much at first, but it’s really ramped up of late.
For instance, it was only three weeks ago that we finally heard Donovan Mitchell speak out about the “tension and frustration” between him and Rudy Gobert, as well as the racist backlash to his post about Juneteenth. The next day, Gobert took his turn, speaking poignantly about the perspective gained from becoming a villain, of sorts.
Since then, it’s been a bit of a kitchen-sink approach to covering the team’s impending restart: some options for replacing the production of the injured Bojan Bogdanovic; getting some insider perspective on their first moments in Orlando, as well as what the first few days were like; coach Quin Snyder talking about how he’s changed over the course of the season; Joe Ingles giving fans a teaser of both “new stuff” to come; Mike Conley teasing a return to some old form; pretty much anything and everything — down to the small, circular Jerry Sloan tribute patch that will adorn the Jazz’s jerseys and warm-ups in Orlando.
All that’s been just the appetizer. Who’s ready for the main course?
Depending on where you are across the country, you can catch the 40-minute contest between Jazz and Suns either on AT&T SportsNet — Rocky Mountain or on NBA League Pass.
In the immortal words of ex-New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott, “CAN’T WAIT!!!”
Sunshine state of mind?
In the interest of trying to bring you the best Jazz coverage possible, thought I’d let you know that, as of this moment, the plan is for The Tribune to send me down to Orlando for the team’s first two “seeding games,” which will take place Thursday, July 30 (vs. the Pelicans) and Saturday, Aug. 1 (vs. the Thunder).
I would fly out to Florida on Monday, July 27, so that I’ll be there in time to take (and hopefully pass) the league-mandated COVID-19 tests that are required for media to gain access to arenas to watch games in person. I won’t be one of those “in-the-bubble” reporters (such status was granted to only 10 or 12 people around the country, and between us, was eye-poppingly pricey), but my hope is that by at least being in the building for a couple games, I can adequately capture not only the unique ambience of an unprecedented game set-up, but also witness the small nuances, the finer details (like, say, ”How do Rudy and Donovan interact with one another during timeouts?”) that you may not be privy to on the television broadcast.
This decision wasn’t made lightly. Yes, I recognize that Florida is the hottest of coronavirus hotspots right now. And like I prefaced this all with, “the plan is …” After a series of conversations with sports editor Joe Baird, editor in chief Jennifer Napier-Pearce, my Jazz coverage partner and talented COVID-19 data distiller Andy Larsen, as well as my wife, we established some thresholds and benchmarks that, if exceeded, will mean pulling the plug on this trip — no debate, no pleading for reconsideration, no ifs, ands, or buts.
I believe this is a historic occasion in the world of sports, and I would love to be there to document it. But at the same time, in the end, it’s a game — a fun one, and one I love — but still just a game, and nothing worth putting myself at risk over.
And finally … some music to lighten the mood
If you have read this newsletter before, or listened to its corresponding podcast, you know that I’m a music junkie. I was even the Trib’s pop music reporter for a time. So, I’m always on the lookout for some good tunes.
The other night, I had some serious insomnia (no, I was not worried about going to Florida!) and rather than lay in bed awake, I went down to the office, grabbed a nice pair of headphones, and decided it was the perfect time to get around to listening to some classic rock albums I either had never fully listened to, or hadn’t heard in a loooooooong time. That night alone, I rolled through: The Band’s “The Band” (disappointingly meh); The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” (absolutely brilliant); Bob Dylan’s “Blonde On Blonde” (one of my new all-time faves); The Rolling Stones’ “Goats Head Soup” (handful of killer tracks I didn’t previously know); the Grateful Dead’s “American Beauty” (didn’t really resonate); T. Rex’s “Electric Warrior” (reminded of how much Marc Bolan was a trippy dude); and Elton John’s “Goodbye yellow Brick Road” (knew the hits, glad to add some of the supporting tracks to my library).
It was a long night. I subsequently also got in on Elvis Costello’s “This Year’s Model” (pleasantly surprised). Anyway … I want more. I’m insatiable. Give me your suggestions — they don’t have to be classic rock, either. I’m willing to give just about anything a shot. Hit me up with your best choices either via email (email@example.com) or on Twitter (@tribjazz; @esotericwalden).
A four-hour plane ride to Orlando is a lot of time to kill.