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Thanks to a bit of creative tanking on the part of coach Quin Snyder, plus some desired results Wednesday from the Thunder and Rockets, the Jazz have now got their much-coveted No. 6 seed in the playoffs, and a postseason path that could only include Houston if they were to improbably meet up in the Western Conference finals.
And all it took was a “personal strain” for Donovan Mitchell here, some “right knee soreness” for Mike Conley there, a bit of “right calf soreness” for Royce O’Neale, and a plain old rest day for Rudy Gobert.
And had those Wednesday results not gone the Jazz’s way, well, Mike had a recurrence of that knee soreness, and Rudy had developed some “lower back soreness” — which led to both being ruled out by Wednesday afternoon.
You may have noticed that conspicuously absent from that rash of sudden maladies is a certain Joe Ingles, who appeared on the injury report all of one time, a week ago with “right foot soreness,” though he was deemed “available” for that game and did indeed play in it, as he has in all others in the bubble.
In the Jazz’s post-practice media session Wednesday, it was noted to Ingles that while he’s never been a stat-chaser of any kind, his consecutive games played streak (presently at 402 games, including playoffs) might be something of a sacred cow, considering that all those various teammates have missed games while he has continue to play.
Utah’s “Iron Man” began shaking his head to indicate the negative even before the query had fully been issued. And when it concluded with, “Why are you playing games with rest the starters are sitting?” he was ready with the most Inglesian of responses.
“Because I get paid to play basketball. It’s my job, it’s what I love to do,” he began.
“When I was playing as a kid for lollipops — that was the first thing that ever got me on a court — I played because I loved that game. And I’ve loved it ever since. I’m not playing, like you said, for stats or for numbers or the history books. I love to play — and Quin knows that,” Ingles continued. “I’ve said this a million times — if [VP of Performance Healthcare] Mike Elliott told me, ‘If you go out there today you’re gonna rip your hamstring off the bone,’ or whatever, I’m not going to play; I’m not silly enough. On the flip side of that, I’ve been lucky that I’ve never been in a situation like that. Knock on wood, I’ve never had to be in that situation.
“I’m very realistic that people are coming to watch the Jazz to see Donovan, to see Rudy, probably to see Quin more than they’re coming to see me. But I also know that somewhere in the world, in Australia, maybe my family, a kid — someone’s paid for for a virtual seat to the game, maybe they’ve saved up for months and months to come Vivint [Smart Home Arena] one time, and I want to be out there to make that one kid’s dream come true, to see me or to say hi to me or whatever it is,” he added. “I mean, if Quin told me, ‘You’re not playing tomorrow,’ and he was dead-set about it, and was thinking it was best for me or for the team, then, ‘See you later. I’m out.’ But we’ve never had to have that conversation, because he knows how much I love to play and how much I love to be out there — even playing with young guys. … To help these young guys when I’m out there, it’s something that I enjoy doing. I just love to be out there, and unless I was going to really obviously hurt myself or something like that, then I wouldn’t put myself in that situation, but regardless of that, I’m going to be out there to help my team.”
A frequent refrain over the past few months has been widespread praise of Donovan for the steps he’s taken in his personal evolution, notably in becoming far more demonstrative — on social media as well as in the real world — in speaking up about social issues.
His advocacy in shining a light on the Breonna Taylor case is perhaps but the most obvious and straightforward example, however.
There’s a lot more subtle, out-of-the-spotlight stuff, though, that makes the case just as well.
Take, for instance, an oddly dismissive question asked of him Wednesday by someone from Bleacher Report, in which it was posited that players’ unprecedented willingness to speak up and speak out would inevitably lead some of them to champion causes or situations predicated upon misinformation, and how might he personally avoid such a scenario?
After initially stating the obvious, that he researches such topics and tries to vet their accuracy by speaking to knowledgable people, Donovan then turned the premise of the back around on itself, pointing that while yes, it is inevitable that some players will speak out about things they are ill-informed on, it’s not as though such a situation has been a widespread concern, considering the myriad extremely legitimate causes that players have taken up.
“I don’t think that’s a worry for guys. There are a lot of things that are going on that aren’t right. … At the end of the day, there is racial and social injustice, there is voter suppression, there is certain things that need to be fixed. I think that’s really the theme,” he said. “The biggest thing is just going out there and using our platform and speaking on what’s right. A lot of people may not like that, but to be honest with you, we really don’t care. As far as us voicing our opinion, it’s just being strong. And if we’re wrong? I’ve been wrong on a few a few occasions. But at the end of the day, I’m not going to stop speaking out, you know? … There’s a lot of B.S. going on in this world, especially towards African Americans, men and women.”
Click these links, read these stories!
Because you clearly enjoy reading about the Jazz, here’s some stuff to read about the Jazz (some of it mine, much of it not):
• The Jazz as a team (and Georges Niang specifically) started off shooting 3s very poorly in the bubble. The Jazz as a team (and Georges Niang specifically) are now shooting 3s much better.
• My colleague Andy Larsen’s Triple Teams are always popular fare. Here’s a trio of recent ones, about tanking to avoid the Rockets; how the 2OT loss to Denver was something of a Rorschach test; and examining the weird circumstances of the first Spurs game.
• Ben Dowsett, who contributes to Forbes Sports, has a keen analytical mind, and used it to break down rookie Miye Oni’s bid for a consistent spot in the rotation.
• Granted, this afternoon’s game against San Antonio is now meaningless from Utah’s perspective (aside from getting some guys one last pre-postseason tuneup), but there’s a lot on the line for the Spurs. Sarah Todd of the Deseret News at how the Spurs are going for a 23rd consecutive playoff berth.