On Wednesday morning, just hours ahead of a couple of Western Conference play-in tournament games that will go a ways toward determining their eventual first-round playoff opponent, the Utah Jazz convened at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus practice facility for an informal get-together.
It wasn’t an official practice or shootaround — just a chance for everyone to get up some shots if they needed, or to spend some time with the training staff, or to work on something specific with a particular assistant coach.
It was the first time some of them had seen each other since flying back from Sunday’s regular-season finale in Sacramento, which Joe Ingles acknowledged was … well, a bit weird.
OK, maybe “weird” sounds a bit dramatic — how about “unusual”?
“Mentally [it was] great to kind of get away and have 48 hours to yourself. I got to put my kids to bed and get ‘em up, and actually enjoy their time,” he said. “[Daughter] Milla said to me [Tuesday], ‘You’re not going to basketball again?’ And I was like, ‘I am not going again.’”
He did go to basketball on Wednesday, though, and even said it was good to get back to work.
“Having the two days was was nice, but it was also really refreshing to come back in today and get some work in and kind of flip to playoff mode,” Ingles said. “Obviously we don’t know who we’re playing, but just more concentrating on our team and what we want to do.”
Of course, they didn’t really have a choice, given that Wednesday’s games didn’t really do anything for the Jazz aside from pare down their prospective postseason opponents from four to two.
So, in the meantime, Utah waits … and waits.
The NBA announced on Tuesday that the No. 1-seeded Jazz would be playing their playoff opener at an as-yet undetermined time on Sunday — two days after their postseason opponent finally is settled, and a full seven days after they closed out the regular season against the Kings.
A whole week between games is a lot.
And it’s prompted some to wonder if whatever benefits that are derived from from the time afforded to rest and recovery will wind up negated as a result of coming back rusty and imprecise in their play.
Ingles, for one, does not subscribe to that theory.
“I think it was good for our group — not even just physically, but mentally, as well — just to kind of step away,” he said. “… Rust? No. I think we’ll be fine. With our healthcare guys, and our coaching staff, we’ve got, I believe, the best in the league at both of those, and they’ll have us ready and raring to go for Sunday.”
Having the past few days away from basketball was particularly good — both physically and mentally — Ingles added, given that all the extra ball-handling and offense-orchestrating he had to do with both Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley out injured simultaneously had about worn him out.
“I know I was excited for a couple of days off. Playing point guard for three weeks is not it,” Ingles said with a laugh. “All of a sudden in the NBA, everyone decided to full-court pressure, which I’ve never seen in seven years — and all of a sudden they decided to pressure for three weeks.”
THE LATEST ON DONOVAN MITCHELL
The Jazz’s PR staff sent out a text Tuesday night letting local media members know there would be an availability with a player following Wednesday’s team get-together, and asking which player should ideally be made available.
How about Donovan Mitchell?
The All-Star guard has not addressed the media since suffering an ankle sprain against the Indiana Pacers back on April 16. Jazz PR replied that Mitchell will be made available as soon as he’s gone through a full practice — which Wednesday was not.
And so, we wait. It seems likely some clarity will come on Thursday, by his availability to media or not.
One reporter Wednesday tried to not-so-subtly get some information out of Ingles on Mitchell’s recovery and status and how he’s looking — and the Aussie expertly sidestepped the query.
“We’re excited to have him back. Whenever he’s healthy, we’ll have him back. That’s not for me to answer,” Ingles said, before concluding with some trademark sarcasm. “He looks great — he looks like a beautiful young man.”