Eric Paschall hopped on the video call wearing a sweater that read “I paused my game to be here.”
That was indeed the vibe Tuesday, as a handful of Utah Jazz players pressed pause on their offseason for their exit interviews with both team officials and reporters. Paschall, rookie guard Jared Butler, and second-year guard Trent Forrest spoke from their homes, while newly-acquired guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker joined the conversation while walking through an airport.
Of the players who spoke Tuesday, only Butler met with team executives immediately after the season ended last week. His exit interview took place with general manager Justin Zanik in the room (team CEO Danny Ainge wasn’t present, nor was head coach Quin Snyder, who was scheduled to undergo hip replacement surgery on Tuesday.)
It’s a bit of a looser approach than the team had taken with exit interviews in the early part of former general manager Dennis Lindsey’s tenure: then, they generally all occurred on the day after the final game of the season. This year, new management is spreading them out over the few weeks after the season — some have happened already, some are scheduled for the future (including Rudy Gobert’s, a source confirmed), some have yet to be scheduled.
Here were the most notable moments from each player’s discussion on Tuesday.
Paschall was acquired with a Jazz second-round pick last offseason, and ended up playing an up-and-down utility role for the team. He played in 58 games overall, started three, but frequently wasn’t called upon when everyone was healthy. In the playoffs, he played a short role as a change-of-pace option at center.
Now, though Paschall’s a free agent. Does he want to stay in Utah, or would he explore going to the other 29 teams?
“I’m very open right now,” Paschall said. “I’ve had no real conversation with anybody yet, so, I don’t know, but I’m open.”
Paschall was proud of the development he made from 3-point distance this season. In his rookie season, he shot just 28% from the field, but was a relatively consistent maker for the Jazz in 2021-22, shooting 37% from deep on mostly open threes generated by the Jazz’s offense — he shot nearly double the number of threes he had per minute in Golden State. He’d like to improve that to around 40%, he says, which would create gravity for other players.
He says he plans on spending most of the summer working with UCLA legend Don MacLean and the rest of the staff of Proactive Sports Performance in Los Angeles.
Butler called his first NBA season a “learning experience.”
“There were moments like playing against some of the guys that I grew up watching, like Chris Paul and LeBron James,” Butler said. “Playing in the G League, after not expecting to play in the G League or kind of wanting to play in the NBA, that was a moment for me. Just playing in the playoffs and seeing the playoff atmosphere was a moment for me, just things like that.”
Obviously, Butler was disappointed not to have a bigger role on the team in his rookie season, but wants to have a bigger role next season. In their meeting, Zanik told Butler to “be prepared” for his sophomore year.
“(He wanted me to) go into this off season with with some motivation and some intensity,” Butler said.
Butler plans on working out this summer in Houston, with the same staff he worked out with pre-draft last year. What is he focusing on?
“I think to grow athletically, be able to sustain myself for 82 games,” he said. “Working on different ways to score against length at my size. Working on passing, working on shooting and all those things. Those are things I’ve always been doing, but I just got to be able to do it at a high level. And like I said, I think opportunity will come in the near future too.”
Trent Forrest missed the end of the regular season and the entire playoffs with a foot sprain that still has him recovering and dealing with pain from the injury. As of Tuesday, he’s approaching, but not yet at, the point where he can do on-court activities in his rehabilitation.
Despite the injury, Forrest had his contract converted from a two-way contract to a standard deal at the end of the season, in order to make him eligible to the playoffs — a move Forrest said he greatly appreciated, given his contributions to the team earlier in the season.
“(One thing) that I heard kind of about Quin (Snyder) was that he doesn’t usually trust a lot of his younger players,” Forrest said. “So, it definitely meant a lot for me to know that he trusted in me to make plays and things like that. It was definitely a big confidence boost for me.”
Since then, though, Forrest has been working on his form shooting, using a heavier ball or even a larger ball at times to make sure that his shot checkpoints are in place. Forrest shot just 19% from 3-point range this year, just as he did last season — right now, his shot is too inconsistent and flat to reliably go in. He says he’ll spend much of the offseason in California, likely Santa Monica, working on his game.
Alexander-Walker had just landed from a flight when speaking to media, but showed an impressive ability to give cogent thoughts on his season and the offseason to come while on the move through the airport.
“The last few months have been the great learning curve from me, in terms of professionalism and coming in and doing your job. It was a tough transition, going from playing to not playing,” Alexander-Walker said. “For me it was like, ‘how do I get better? How do I provide for the team? How do I make myself grow more?’”
The third-year guard says that he’ll want to improve his decision making for the regular season, but definitely wants to change his body type in preparation for future playoff runs.
“Just watching the playoffs, it was a lot more physical. Again, that was my first series that I’ve ever been part of and just to see how physical the game gets and the intensity ups by a ton. So I think being able to withstand a playoff series,” Alexander-Walker said.
He plans on heading home to Canada — including Hamilton, Ontario, where he grew up. He says he’ll see his cousins there, one of whom is Oklahoma City star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.