As Kyrie Irving and Bradley Beal and Andrew Wiggins and Jonathan Isaac have garnered headlines in recent days for revealing that they remain unvaccinated against COVID-19, the Utah Jazz made their own news on the same subject Monday morning — albeit for a very different reason.
Jazz players are now 100% vaccinated against the coronavirus, general manager Justin Zanik revealed during his media day session at Vivint Arena.
“I think it’s every person’s choice, but the fact that our players and our coaches and health performance [staff] and the entire organization chose to do that to protect each other says something,” Zanik elaborated. “I think you already know how high-character our guys are and how much they care about each other, and I think this is a simple gesture to each of them, between them.”
Center Rudy Gobert, the first NBA player to test positive for COVID-19, was among the Jazz’s final holdouts. He said he wanted to take his time and not feel pressured into making an ill-informed decision, and that he spoke to many people about the various issues he had some pause about. And finally, “When I felt like it was time, I did it.”
He added that having the whole team vaccinated eliminates a potential distraction.
“And it just shows that we’re ready to try and accomplish something together,” Gobert said.
Donovan Mitchell, the second NBA player to publicly test positive for COVID-19, obliquely referenced those unvaccinated players on other teams, and noted that simply watching the news on TV illustrates what a hot-button issue the topic of COVID vaccinations has become.
And while he still supports individuals making their own decisions, he’s also glad all his teammates got the shot. He called for more people in the general population to do so as well, for the sake of slowing the pandemic that’s once again raging owing to the highly transmissible Delta variant.
“I definitely encourage not just my teammates, but I encourage people [in general] to get vaccinated so we can get past this,” Mitchell said.
Meanwhile, Jordan Clarkson, who became a viral sensation over the weekend for a “Man on the Street” interview gone awry, noted that the reporter involved was querying passersby about the Jazz’s then-recently announced policy of requiring fans to show proof of either immunization or a negative COVID-19 test in order to attend games at Vivint Arena.
Like Mitchell, he encouraged fans to follow through, if for no other reason than simply not to miss what he promised would be an entertaining season.
“Some fans [were saying they] wasn’t going to come. But I mean, if you don’t come, you’re missing the best show in town for real,” Clarkson said. “You know how it is. We’re about to get to it, get after it. We’ve got one main goal this year — we’re gonna rack up a lot of wins. So do what you got to do — get your COVID tests, get your vaccine, just be at the games, because we’re gonna put on a great show for everybody this year.”
Media Day Blog
Utah Jazz media day took place at Vivint Arena on Monday. Here are updates from the players, coaches, and front office personnel as the day progressed.
Quin Snyder: 1:53 p.m.
• On Vegas training camp: “When we were in the bubble, part of that process really helped our team. It was eating together, it was the ping-pong table, it was literally coming down the elevator and being in the gym.”
• On Rudy Gay: “You get to a point in your career where ‘It’s good enough.’ When you’ve been in the league that long, a lot of guys get content. With Rudy, there was a thirst to improve. There’s a lot of things he can bring to our team that are really unique.”
• He says the Jazz have to be very transparent about the things they need to do to maximize their window of contention. He said the team needs to maximize its unselfishness and depth.
• “I’m not fond of the expression ‘run it back.’ That’s not what we’re trying to do.”
12:52 p.m.: Bojan Bogdanovic
• Bogey said he was at his best last year when Quin Snyder had him hunting mismatches against smaller defenders. He said he spent the summer in Croatia trying to get more efficient at scoring in such post-up situations.
• Asked if he’s watched the season finale since it happened: “Uh yeah, unfortunately. I watch every game to try and get better. … Game 6, I cannot explain what happened.”
• Bogey notes that he’s not much of a social media guy, “but if you want me to be, I will.”
• “I feel way better. My wrist is way better. Now I know how bad I was at the start of last season. … I’m gonna look like my first year with the Jazz.”
12:35 p.m.: Hassan Whiteside
• Rudy Gobert was the first Jazz player to reach out to him after he signed. He said there are no issues between them. “I know I’m here to back him up.”
• He said he appreciates the team’s defensive scheme: “I’ve been wanting this for sure. I’ve wanted to be in this system for awhile.”
• “This here is a plethora of shooters. You keep going on and on and on. The amount of guys who can shoot here is unbelievable.”
• He said he told Joe Ingles when he met him here that he used to hate him because Joe was such an incessant trash-talker. Recalled Joe telling him once: “C’mon, you ain’t gonna block that.” Added that Donovan is far more personable than he believed.
• Quin Snyder “is nothing like I thought he was. I thought he was gonna be a strict, angry guy. He looks so stressed out, and I’m like, ‘You guys are up 30!’ And then he told me, ‘You don’t have to call me coach, you can call me Q.’ He’s a smooth-talking guy.”
• Said the Jazz’s experience level is a big asset: “A lot of these guys are my age; I was the oldest guy in Sacramento.”
12:13 p.m.: Royce O’Neale
• Royce is bringing the jokes today. Asked about Donovan Mitchell’s buddy Eric Paschall being on the team now, he replies: “Eric might get a little jealous of me and Don’s relationship. Don might have to choose.”
• Asked for his first impressions of rookie and fellowBaylor product Jared Butler, Royce faux-scoffs and jokes, “Eh, that guy. Don’t like him.”
• “The way last season ended, no one was happy. I watched [Game 6] almost every day.”
11:54 a.m.: Rudy Gay
• Asked to assess the Jazz’s talent level, he says that “Joe Ingles has been one of my favorite players for a long time.”
• “One thing about playing in the league 15 years, it’s harder to get up if you don’t have a purpose. I still have a purpose — I want to win.”
• He said he’s accustomed to playing smallball 5: “That’s something I did in San Antonio. … Part of being in this league is about doing whatever it takes.”
• On why he chose the Jazz: “I’ve played with Mike before, and it’s always good to know a guy on the team.” Adds that Quin Snyder absolutely sold him during a 45-minute to hour-long conversation.
11:36: Mike Conley
• “It helps to have a veteran presence on this team in regards to, ‘This isn’t gonna last forever.’” … Said last season was a reminder that “things can change just like that. … We’ve all learned lessons from heartbreak and loss.”
• On the Vegas training camp: “A change of scenery is never bad. I’ve been on a few destination training camps. Players get to focus on each other more.”
• He just took a trip with owner Ryan Smith and they played some 2-on-2 Ryder Cup-style golf. Said that Smith is constantly asking what he can do to help the players.
• Said he felt better than he ever had last year heading into the season, but he’s added a few new things to his health routines: “I do yoga almost religiously now.”
• On the new additions: “I think we did address a lot in the offseason. Not just Rudy Gay, but Hassan, Eric … I love Jared. … All the guys we have are ready.”
• Comes in wearing a No. 11 jersey: “I tried to change it a year and a half ago and they told me I had to wait.” Said he forgot all about it until equipment manager Adam Klauke sent him a text with a pic of his new old number.
11:18: Donovan Mitchell
• On the team’s 100% vaccination status: “It’s a personal choice, but I encourage people — not just the team — to get vaccinated so we can get past this.”
• On the idea of load management: “Understanding the importance of longevity, of being there for the playoffs, I’m with it.” Said before his injury, he might have felt differently.
• What he wants to improve this year: “Being able to be more efficient — shooting percentages, obviously, but also turnovers, defense.”
• “I told everyone on the bus after the loss: ‘Let this eat at you.’” Said he encouraged everyone to put more work in. “Instead of eight reps, do 10.”
• “We addressed a few things. Defensively, we needed some new looks.”
• “I took 3 weeks of not doing anything” after the injury. He is 100% ready to go.
• “This is a big year for us. We’re not gonna sneak up on anybody.”
10:37: Joe Ingles
• He says the Jazz are done talking about winning a championship and have a simple mindset: “Let’s go and do it. Why not us?”
• on the Jazz’s 100% vaccination status: “It puts an ease to a few things. The world is still not ideal. … I don’t even know what the protocols are right now.”
• Ingles notes that after Australia lost to Team USA, he sat down with Patty Mills and they noted that the Boomers were 0-11 in bronze/4th-place games. “And I told him, ‘That’s not happening again.’”
• “We’ve got a little bit to prove.”
• When asked to reflect on the playoff loss, and the role that injuries played: “I’m not gonna nitpick on little things. If we’d have had Michael Jordan, that would have been great, too.”
10:33: Jared Butler
• On temporarily being a cheerleader at the BYU game: “Trust me, I had a good reason.” What was it? “I had 500 good reasons.”
10:22: Rudy Gobert
• “We got some guys who can really help us. We saw we needed to get better defensively, especially in the playoffs, and we got some guys that can help us do that.”
• On Hassan Whiteside: “He’s a really good player. I’ve watched him for years. He can really change the game with his presence and his instincts. He puts pressure on the rim on both ends.”
• Making the decision to get vaccinated: “I took my time. I didn’t want to be pressured by it. And when I felt like it was the right time, I did it. … It’s cool that we have the whole group and we’re not making that a distraction.”
• “We really have an opportunity to do something special here over the next few years. You don’t get many of those windows in your career.”
• Looking back on the Clippers loss: “It was a mix of a lot of things — injuries, and you have to give credit to the Clippers. … We’ve had a lot of time to reflect and see what we can get better at.”
• “I’m not super, super, super satisfied with a silver medal.”
10:11: Jordan Clarkson
• As JC leaves the podium, someone tells him to have fun in Vegas, and he quickly replies: “I ain’t losing no more money over there!”
• He gets a question on Zoom from a reporter in the Philippines, and interrupts to ask, “Wait — is that MY jersey?!” that the reporter is wearing. And it is.
• “To have everyone vaccinated and ready to play and do team things … it’s definitely something that’s great for us and the team.”
• On the requirements for fans to be vaccinated or return a negative COVID-19 test to attend games: Do what you gotta do — get your COVID tests, get your vaccine. We’re gonna put on a great show.”
• Jordan Clarkson walks in and jokes: “Before we start, do you need me to spell my name?” Then he does it.
9:38 a.m.: General manager Justin Zanik
• On the front office changes: “Very excited about the new additions coming to the Jazz. It shows Ryan [Smith’s] commitment.” … Said he wouldn’t describe the scouting staff changes as a “reorganization,” but “putting people in the right places.”
• Asked how comfortable he is with the team’s vaccination level, he replies, “Well, we’re 100% vaccinated, so very comfortable.”
• “The NBA’s done an unbelievable job getting us through the last season. We still have to be aware.”
• On the Jazz being fully vaccinated: “This is a simple gesture between them. I am proud of them.”
• “There’s going to be a different approach to the roster. We have a lot of veterans, and ways to manage them.”
• On why he’s encouraged about the team’s chances this season: “People have said we’ve improved around the fringes. That’s because we have a really good core. We’re trying to add a little more versatility, a little more depth as we get older and need to rest some guys.”
• On what it’ll take for the Jazz to win 16 playoff games: “Health. Talent. Being connected. We have absolutely everything we need here.”
9:11 a.m.: MaCio Teague
• The rookie Baylor product said his mentality right now is simply, “Be a star in my role.”
• On his ex-Baylor teammate Jared Butler: “Really talented scorer. He can shoot the ball well and really defend.”
8:46 a.m.: Udoka Azubuike
• “Summer League was great for me. I’m just trying to build off that. … It built my confidence a little bit.”
• “I’m in pretty good shape right now. All I did this summer was run. I went back to Kansas for a bit and did some conditioning work.”
• Added that he spent most of the offseason with his host family in Jacksonville, just trying to get ready for the coming season.
8:30 a.m.: Eric Paschall
• Said he’s very excited to be with the Jazz, but is still trying to get acclimated. “I don’t know what my role is yet, but I’m just trying to bring energy, be a dog at all times.”
• After growing up in NYC and playing in San Francisco, he said it’s an adjustment to being in a smaller place like Utah. But he loves the scenery. “I’m in a hotel right now, but every time I look out the window and see the mountains, it’s beautiful.”
• Biggest difference so far with the Jazz: “I know I’m not gonna take a lot of midrange jumpers.” … Conversely, “I’m gonna have the freedom to shoot a lot of 3s. That gives you confidence.”
• The best advice he’s gotten from longtime friend Donovan Mitchell on how to fit in with the Jazz: “Play defense. And turn those midrangers into 3s.”
8:17 a.m.: Elijah Hughes
• “We’re all excited. We know how things ended last year. We want to make a championship run.”
• “I would say this is my real rookie year” because last season was so weird.
• “Any 23-year-old that comes out of college and averaged 20 points a game wants to play. … It’s tough, it sucks. But I’m on a contending team,” so that’s exciting.
8:04 a.m.: Justin James
• The Jazz’s newest two-way player said a deal was struck pretty quickly. He was brought in for a workout, and then shortly afterward, “The told me they wanted me.” He added that, “The team hasn’t been fully back yet, so I’ve been playing with the young guys.”
• “I played against Dok in high school. … He’s so much more of a presence.”
• He said his favorite off-court pastimes are playing video games and watching Netflix. What are his favorites? “I know y’all are gonna give it to me for this, but I just finished ‘Game of Thrones’ — so now I get what all the hype is about. That’s my favorite show right now.”
7:56 a.m.: Derrick Alston
• Training camp body Derrick Alston kicks off the proceedings, a full 4 minutes ahead of schedule.
• The 6-foot-9 forward said the biggest acclimation thus far has been getting used to the different spacing, and to the speed of the players. He said a nice coincidence of landing in the Jazz’s camp is that his dad and Joe Ingles’ dad played together in Australia.