Jordan Clarkson said in his Zoom interview with media on Wednesday that, in his mind, the biggest factor in the Utah Jazz taking a step forward this season would be everyone holding each other accountable.
On Thursday, Joe Ingles and Georges Niang both spoke extensively on accountability as well, though not in the context of their play on the basketball court.
With the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing — there were 3,945 new cases and 11 more deaths announced by the Utah Department of Health on Thursday — and the Utah Jazz one of three NBA teams thus far set to allow some fans in attendance for regular-season games, the players spoke of the tightrope they’ll be walking now that games won’t be played in a controlled-environment bubble, and reiterated the need for vigilance and … well, personal accountability.
“It’ll be fun to have people in there — I think the only thing with that is making sure whoever’s working that night or the players or all of the fans that are coming or the media or whoever is in the arena, you want everyone to be as safe as possible health-wise, as well,” Ingles said. “So if they can promise that everyone’s going to be healthy and safe, then it’ll be great to have some fans.”
Of course, he added later, such a promise is simply impossible.
But as the father of young twins (one of whom has autism) and a two-week-old baby, he’s imploring people to be diligent in taking COVID-19 seriously.
“Everyone individually I would hope is doing their best to be as safe as possible,” Ingles said. “… I cross with however many people here in the [practice] facility every day. So, I mean, it’s still a scary thing. I don’t think anyone is shying away from the fact that … we’re seeing the numbers and the effect it’s having on everybody.”
Beyond looking at it from a basic health and safety standpoint, there’s a practical aspect, too.
After all, the Jazz are the team that had the first two positive cases of COVID-19 in the entire NBA — and the virus was new enough then that it shut down play for several months. In the meantime, many sports have returned, but without a bubble situation in place, myriad teams have been impacted by players testing positive. Ingles pointed out that should two or three Jazz players get the coronavirus simultaneously, that could very well wreck an entire month of their season.
To that end, Niang said no one on the Jazz is taking it lightly.
“Obviously, all of us are following the safety protocols — the NBA has done a great job of listing things out of what we can and cannot do, and I think all of our guys are taking that pretty seriously,” he said. “I know Joe has given us all a pep talk on really locking in and and really following the rules, because that’s important to him. And if it’s important to him, it’s important to all of us.”
Niang added that while he doesn’t want to think negatively and assume it’s inevitable that someone on the team will get it, it’s also a given that “we all do our part.”
Meanwhile, given the various restrictions in place in various locales, and with the shortened offseason and his wife’s pregnancy, Ingles said that this was the first time he and his family did not go back to their native Australia following the season’s end, because “We couldn’t get home without a bit of trouble.”
And so, they remained in Utah, and he made extensive use of the Zions Bank Basketball Campus.
“Being here and having access to the facility when it was open was something, again, I’ve never done before. I’ve been going pretty hard for a long time now — I don’t know how long I’ve been here for, but it feels like forever,” Ingles said. “I wanted to be as fit as I could possibly be, which I think I’m right there. … My shot feels great, I feel fit, my body feels good. So, yeah, it’s been it’s been a good offseason.”
And now he’s hoping to follow it with a good regular season, too — one in which the Jazz not only take steps forward on the court, but in which everyone on or around the team (staff, arena workers, media, fans) do their part to keep themselves — and each other — safe.
“You’re not just affecting yourself, obviously — there’s people with families, grandmothers, parents, everyone gets affected,” Ingles said. “So hopefully everyone’s being as smart as possible.”