In a normal NBA offseason, the draft typically takes place in the last week of June, and training camps kick off at the beginning of October.
This time around, the NBA draft took place on Nov. 18, training camp got underway with individual workouts on Dec. 1, and the Utah Jazz kicked off team practices on Dec. 4.
That compressed timeframe can’t help but create some problems, particularly for first-year players who come in getting virtually zero time to acclimate to the professional game.
“Really, we’re asking a lot this year of rookies, with a shortened preparation process,” coach Quin Snyder said. “Usually they get to come in, have Summer League, go through [organized team activities] — you’ve got like three or four months for them to get comfortable. And [now] guys are getting thrown right in it.”
Even as relatively mature and experienced rookies — the Kansas center played four seasons of college ball, while the Syracuse wing was a fourth-year junior — they both said there was no substitute for experience in adjusting to the speed and size and spacing of the NBA game.
Getting a chance to go up against second-year players, other rookies, and young free agents just looking for a chance, under the auspices of NBA rules and referees in some games in Vegas, would have been big for their growth process.
“I think the biggest thing is no Summer League — that kind of hurt us a lot, it kind of put us behind the 8-ball a little bit,” Hughes said.
“Yeah, it’s a little more challenging for guys like us just coming straight from college,” Azubuike agreed. “We didn’t get to play Summer League ball, we just have kinda jumped in.”
That said, they’re doing their best to ask questions and soak up everything they can.
Hughes, the team’s second-round selection, noted that “the beauty of this team is there’s so many great vets to lean on and talk to,” revealing that Joe Ingles, Donovan Mitchell and Bojan Bogdanovic have been among the teammates who’ve taken the time to explain specific concepts to him.
Which has been helpful because — given the compacted nature of the schedule everyone’s dealing with — he hasn’t really had a chance to do much yet aside from work out, practice and get moved into his new place, and thus can use all the help he can get.
That said, Salt Lake City has already made an impression on him, with its mountains and scenery. Then again, the thing he expressed the most excitement about hopefully getting to do soon was … eating at Benihana.
So the learning curve continues.
“We’re excited about both those guys and what they can do,” Snyder said, “and we also know it’s going to be a process for ‘em.”