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My apologies for not having a newsletter for you last week, but I had a death in the family and was taking some time away from the job. Needless to say, I was not following the team as closely as I normally would. In fact, while I watched the bulk of a couple games, I skipped a few others entirely. Sometimes, there are things bigger than basketball. Speaking of which …
Jazz hearts breaking for Izzy Tichenor
My first day back on the beat was Thursday, which saw me head to the ZBBC around 10 a.m. for the team’s shootaround against the Pacers. A few of us in a group text with Jazz PR were told that Donovan Mitchell had asked to speak with us. We presumed, given his series of Tweets from Wednesday, that he wanted to discuss Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor, a 10-year-old who committed suicide after being bullied for being Black and autistic. We subsequently requested that Joe Ingles (who has an autistic son, and who also has tweeted extensively about Izzy) be the other player made available in the post-shootaround media session.
Can I tell you how proud I was that not one single question was asked about basketball? That not one person in that room was thinking about that night’s game against the Indiana Pacers in that moment? There were things bigger than basketball on everyone’s minds.
Don called the situation — in which the ongoing bullying was reported to school and Davis School District officials, but nothing was done about it — “vile” and “flat-out disgusting” and asked, “As a human being, how do you let it get to that point?” Joe noted that he’d had an hourlong conversation with Izzy’s mom, Brittany, on Wednesday and that “hearing what Izzy had been through … was legitimately heart-breaking.”
Both players expressed their intention to use their platforms to continue advocating for people like Izzy. The “shut up and dribble” crowd probably would have been annoyed at the lack of hoops discussion. No one at ZBBC on Thursday could have cared less what that lot had to say.
Honesty about shooting-related frustration
OK, on to a few basketball things …
Look, it’s no secret that the Jazz haven’t shot the ball especially well in the early part of the season. And it’s also no secret that, nine times out of 10, when someone on the Jazz is asked about not shooting well, they’re gonna avoid talking about any concern and default to some stock response about the importance of playing good defense.
That’s why, in the aftermath of Tuesday’s win over the Hawks, I was happy to hear Donovan get asked if it was good to see some shots go in, and thrilled to hear him answer it honestly: “Yeah, it was. … It gives you life. You can say all you want about being able to guard throughout not making shots, and you can do that two times, three times, but it’s tough to do it consecutively four, five, six, seven times. It’s the truth. That’s what we’re hoping to be, to be great, and that’s where we’ve got to get to, but it’s tough at times when shots aren’t falling. It’s like, ‘Maaaaaan. Even open ones.’ To see some shots go in tonight, it was good. It felt good.”
Some quick hits
Big thanks to my coverage partner, Andy Larsen, for doing the heavy lifting while I was away, and to Trib sports writers Julie Jag and Alex Vejar for also stepping in. Among the articles written in my absence that I found interesting:
GM Justin Zanik giving an update on the Rudy Gay injury timeline and explaining why Jared Butler will be spending some time with the SLC Stars … Backup 4/smallball 5 Eric Paschall proving surprisingly adept at perimeter defense … and Hassan Whiteside showing out against the Kings, his twice-former team.