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Weekly Run newsletter: Catching up with Utah Jazz rookie Elijah Hughes for some needed positivity

Going from being a college star to a rarely-used rookie has been tough, but he’s been getting some needed encouragement from the leader of the Good Vibes Tribe.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz forward Elijah Hughes (33) us guarded by Atlanta Hawks guard Tony Snell (19), in NBA action between the Utah Jazz and the Atlanta Hawks at Vivint Arena, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021.

What a couple of days it’s been Jazz-wise …

After the drama of the team’s plane incident and the lingering question of Donovan Mitchell’s availability for future road games, though, it feels like we could all use a palate-cleanser, yeah?

Welcome, Elijah Hughes!

With no locker room access this season, there’s not really tons of opportunity to check in frequently with the non-rotation guys. And with daily stories to be written, the media default is to utilize our available Zoom interviews to talk to guys who are sufficiently in the mix and loquacious enough to speak on a whole host of subjects. Sometimes, though, you find the right confluence of events to justify skipping the likes of Donovan, Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic, et cetera.

No, Elijah is not doing a ton in games right now (though he has grabbed some garbage-time minutes of late), but that doesn’t mean he can’t potentially do something down the line. That said, when we spoke to him prior to Monday’s win over the Cavaliers, he spoke thoughtfully about his rookie season thus far.

• On going from a college star to little-used rookie: “It is an adjustment, but honestly, it’s been fun. I’ve been learning, picking up new things. I’m on the best team in the NBA — I can’t really be upset, I can’t really be mad. You know, I’m a competitor and obviously I want to be out there playing, but it’s a learning process. Pretty much everybody has been through it.”

• On specific lessons he’s learned: “I know how detailed Coach Q is — he’s a real detailed guy, likes things done a certain way, precise, very focused. Just defensive schemes, just terminology, things like that. And then also, from the older guys, just taking care of your body. I learned that from guys like Mike, Donovan, Derrick Favors that they’re always in the training room, always staying after, getting more treatment because it’s a long season.”

(BTW, I loved that he said he learned the body-care stuff from “the older guys,” then included 24-year-old Donovan in there.)

• Which veteran has helped him the most: “Jordan Clarkson — he’s been in my corner a lot, you know, telling me on the bench, ‘We’ve all been here, we’ve all been through it, so just keep learning, keep trying to pick up things.’ Honestly, he’s been helping me a lot, just staying in my ear telling me that, ‘You’re going to be fine, your time is going to come.’ I’ve been leaning on him a lot.”

• What’s been the most surprising: “I would say the traveling. People say how much traveling [there] is and how much it can get to you, going from time zone to time zone. Knowing how to take care of your body, sleep right, eat the right thing, that’s probably the one thing that’s stuck out to me the most that I’m definitely going to learn from the most — eating well, sleeping better, and all that kind of stuff.”

Mike’s jump-ball victory gets quite the reaction

When Mike Conley tracked down a loose ball in the waning seconds of last Friday’s game against the Grizzlies, it was a winning play. When he got tied up, then had to face uber-athletic youngster Ja Morant on a jump ball with 1.9 seconds to go, then improbably won the tip and sent the ball into an open space, where Fav was able to grab it and run out the clock, well, it was the winning play.

Naturally, his Jazz teammates had jokes about the 33-year-old outjumping a 21-year-old dunk machine like Morant.

“I haven’t seen Mike jump that high since Ohio State,” Donovan cracked.

Rudy was asked if he’d given his point guard any jump-ball advice: “I’d usually tell him to just try to do like me and get it quick, but I lost [the opening jump] today, so I couldn’t give him any tips — he wouldn’t take me seriously.”

The most exuberant and detailed reaction came from JC, though: “Ha! Mike got bounce. We still have a rolling bet in the locker room — we’re still waiting for him to dunk. We should have put a bet on him winning a jump ball, too, as well. He wears [Air] Jordans — they only sign people who dunk and do stuff like that; I think Mike is the only one that stays on the ground. Hopefully he gets a dunk soon and we win some money on that.”

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