Utah Jazz’s Quin Snyder uses lessons learned from hiatus, bubble restart to be more flexible now

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder talks to Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) and Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (10) during a break in the action, in NBA action between the Utah Jazz and the Minnesota Timberwolves in Salt Lake City, Monday, Nov. 18, 2019.

When the Utah Jazz were ramping up their preparation for the NBA restart in Orlando, coach Quin Snyder compared it to the preseason training camp he’d done months prior, and opined that, if given a chance to go back in time, he’d do some things differently.

Specifically, he felt too many decisions he made revolved around the newness of the roster, when the veteran nature of the players involved probably should have mitigated many of his concerns and informed his choices.

So then, with another training camp ongoing, has the coach indeed taken that to heart this time?

“We had a bunch of conversations through the summer about how we can change it or modify things to make it flow better — and he’s done that,” point guard Mike Conley said following Thursday’s practice. “He’s pulled me aside before we run a drill and said, ‘Mike, this is your drill. This is the drill you talked about in the summer. This is yours.’ So he’s really implementing a lot of our ideas that we talked about in the summertime at length.”

For example, Snyder’s willingness to get players into 5-on-5 competitions earlier in practices. Conley also invoked one of his own suggestions, which entailed modifying a rigid script into “a slow progression to get us into the live portion of seeing defenders on us playing that certain scheme or play that we’re trying to run.”

Snyder himself did not get into in-depth details of specific habits or practices that he’s altered, but more broadly touched upon the need for coaches themselves to be as flexible as they ask players to be.

To help enable that, he admitted he keeps “a pretty detailed journal” so that he can go back and reassess big-picture points he’s made to the team throughout the season. Much of last year, he reflected, “was about discovery,” with new key pieces such as Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, and, later, Jordan Clarkson added as key cogs.

“As far as having different habits, different concepts, those are all things that we had to learn, and learn about each other,” Snyder said.

Using his interactions with Conley as a microcosm for the team as a whole, Snyder added that there has been consistent give and take, and near-constant recalibrations as they figure out how best to work together.

“For Mike and myself, we always communicated, but we had to get to know each other. And that doesn’t mean that we didn’t have a good relationship, it was really the opposite,” Snyder said. “In my case, I was wanting to help him make a transition, make the adjustments that he needed to make with our team, because they were significant. … So we’re using Mike as an example, but I think it’s true of our entire group, and those guys getting to know each other, our identity evolving as a team.”

(Photo courtesy of Utah Jazz) Point guard Mike Conley takes part in a training camp practice on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020.

He equated the situation to having a friend you may not have seen for a while, but not missing a beat with once you eventually reconnect: “You have to get to know somebody really well to have that happen.”

Beyond that, much of what will be different about the Jazz this coming season is the result of all the time the team had on its hands during the coronavirus pandemic-caused hiatus.

As Snyder succinctly put it, “From March until July, you know, we had a chance to really look at our team.”

Virtually every Jazz player who’s addressed the media during training camp has expressed unbridled enthusiasm for the return of the injured Bogdanovic. And yet, his absence forced everyone involved to dig deeper to account for his absence.

His return now should not — and will not — negate the implementation of concepts that wound up working in the bubble. Ignoring such concepts now would only prove to be another miscue Snyder would need a time machine to correct.

“With Bojan being out, some of the adjustments that we had to make, we weren’t just making because we didn’t have him; we were we were making them because we felt like there’s a way to play,” Snyder said.