Weekly Run newsletter: Early insights from the Utah Jazz’s ‘Media Week’

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) celebrates with Utah Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic (44) their 109-102 win after hosting the Orlando Magic in their NBA basketball game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. Dec. 17, 2019.

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In each of the past two years, I spent the bulk of a day in early October in a conference room at either the Zions Bank Basketball Campus or at Vivint Smart Home Arena, sitting amongst various reporters as Jazz front office members and players filed in one after another for the annual Media Day event.

This year, owing to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there is a “Media Week” instead, consisting of a few Zoom calls a day. As of this writing, we’ve had virtual interviews with Dennis Lindsey and Justin Zanik, Quin Snyder, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Rudy Gobert. We also got Zooms with Derrick Favors and Donovan Mitchell last week on account of their new contracts with the team.

I gotta say, it’s been weird. As used to Zoom calls as I am at this point, unfortunately, it can’t compete with the experience of being in the same room as these guys and witnessing the subtle changes in body language, the knowing looks exchanged, let alone the sarcastic banter that ensues when Donovan invades the session featuring Mike Conley and Joe Ingles to play reporter and ask a question.

Maybe next year …

Anyway, here’s a few random assorted thoughts of things that have stood out to me in this first batch of interviews:

Dennis Lindsey — normally so inscrutable in his well-honed habit of talking a lot but revealing very little — this time produced the single biggest eyebrow-raising moment thus far. In explaining his rationale for drafting Udoka Azubuike while simultaneously working on a long-term extension for Rudy and bringing back Fav, he sold it as a “best player available” situation and explained that he meant it quite literally, candidly disclosing that the Jazz’s analytics models had “Dok” as the No. 2-rated prospect in the entire draft, and that the team’s scouts had him solidly within the top 10. That’s just mind-blowing to me, and only serves to highlight how, even in this age of information overload, there can be such disparate views on players depending on the team.

• Buried deep within the recesses of Donovan’s availability was another curious statement. Asked about how his game would change this year, part of his response drifted toward how the offense had and would continue to morph, and concluded with the following: “It’s going to take some figuring out, because when you add Bojan back, things are different. It’s a different element, not in a bad way, but there’s going to be some things we just need to just figure out.”

Granted, Bogey hasn’t played since the season went on hiatus in March, missing both the bubble restart and the subsequent playoffs on account of his wrist surgery, but I figured the 63 games he did play with the team had been sufficient to determine how everyone fit together, even taking into account adding Jordan Clarkson midseason. So yeah, kinda strange to me that those 15 games they played without Bojan would necessitate a stated need to figure things out.

• Then again, given that there’s been a long-held belief that Bogey would be ready to go by the start of the season, only to hear him admit on Tuesday night that he doesn’t really know if that will be the case, perhaps a figuring-out period is perfectly explicable. That said — let’s clarify something real quick: There was a decent amount of alarmism to Bogey’s statement on my Twitter timeline last night, but we have no idea if it’s warranted. Dennis Lindsey has said that Bogey has looked good and everything is going to plan. And Bogey himself was simply suggesting that there are steps yet to go in the process before a firm decision is made. That’s all. He was not a guy disheartened by some theoretical setback; rather, he sounded legitimately thrilled with the progress he’s made after playing most of last season in pain.

Rudy revealing that he intends to shoot some midrange jumpers in games this year just makes me happy. Will it work? Can he make them consistently? Who knows. The point is, Rudy is a guy who’s never satisfied with where he’s at, who always wants to bring something new to the table. It’s no coincidence that one of his go-to phrases is “I feel like I’m just scratching the surface.” He wants to get better.

Some fans have expressed concern with this, suggesting he should accept who he is, what he’s capable of, and not try to go beyond that to the potential detriment of the team. To that I say, if his jumper is a disaster, it’ll disappear pretty quickly. Just remember: It was all of two years ago that Fav was “dead-ass serious” about being a 3-point shooter.

Music I’ve been listening to

(First off, a disclaimer: Every song or album I’ve ever listed in this space before has come with the implicit recommendation that you too should check it out. That streak stops today! You’ll discover why soon.)

Miley Cyrus, “Plastic Hearts”: I proclaimed my love of Miley here two weeks ago in letting you know about one of her singles. Now, her full album is out, and I feel confident in declaring it the best 1980s glam-rock record of 2020. The title track is just head-boppingly clever lyricism. “Gimme What I Want” and “Night Crawling” (feat. Billy Idol) are slinky, groove-driven animalism. “High” and “Hate Me” are introspective ruminations on love and loss. And “Bad Karma” (feat. Joan Jett) and “Golden G String” (yeah, it’s a tacky title, but give it a chance) are both scathingly self-reflective looks in the mirror, while the latter doubles as an unapologetic pulling back of the curtain on a young woman simultaneously navigating the pitfalls of self-expression, using sex as a marketing tool, and the misogyny rife within the entertainment industry.

Volbeat, “Rewind, Replay, Rebound (Live in Deutschland)”: This Danish/American metal outfit has progressively drifted toward more radio-friendly rock over the years, to the dismay of some, though I like the nuance and layers it’s added to their repertoire. Their latest live album is 27 tracks of not-much-differentness than previous live albums, though I personally enjoy hearing the treatment that some of the new songs (like, say, “Sorry Sack of Bones” and “Die to Live”) get in such a setting.

Dolly Parton, “A Holly Dolly Christmas”: I love Christmas music, though I’ll admit I’m more drawn to the poppier side of it than the traditional stuff. So I’m always looking to add new stuff. Though I’m not particularly a fan of country music, Dolly is a living icon, so I gave this a whirl. It’s kinda meh. A few tracks I like, a few I really didn’t. And dueting with … [check notes] … Jimmy Fallon? to cover Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas iIs You” is certainly one way to go. (Semi-related note: Here’s an “Ultimate Christmas Playlist” I put together for the Trib back when I was the music reporter.)

Smashing Pumpkins, “Cyr”: Yeah, here’s the history-maker. Back in high school, my best friend, James, got me into the Pumpkins. “Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness” was something we bonded over. That said, I’ve drifted away from them over the years. With three-fourths of the original lineup reunited for “Cyr,” though, I had high hopes. They were unfounded. SP have always been at their best when they’re bludgeoning you with heavy guitar riffs. And while Billy Corgan deserves props for not bowing to convention or expectation, the truth is I just found this synth-driven electropop experiment to be repetitive and boring. The last half of the album was wholly unnecessary — I think I wound up liking about 5 of 20 tracks overall. And Billy, ever the iconoclast, did himself no favors by composing lyrics that (with apologies to “Bill and Ted Face the Music”) seemed to be the product of “summering in medieval England.” Hard pass on a re-listen for me.


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