Atlanta native Walker Kessler is ready for Salt Lake City to let it snow

How ’Bout This Jazz newsletter: The rookie center is keen to experience snowfall for the first time. Meanwhile, coach Will Hardy runs the emotional gamut, with a somber moment and a very funny one.

Utah Jazz's Walker Kessler, left, goes up for a dunk against Philadelphia 76ers' Tobias Harris during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

As Walker Kessler came into his media availability on Wednesday, he made a comment about how cold Utah had gotten recently, and acknowledged a bit of ambivalence about the coming winter.

On the one hand, he’s excited to experience something unique: “I’m from Atlanta. It’s a little different.”

On the other, there is some concern about just how different it will be: “The most snow we’ve got in Atlanta is, like, six inches, and it was like, ‘Whoa! We’ve got to shut down school for two weeks.’”

Still, given that those rare Southern snowstorms have always seemed to take place when he was out of town, there’s a bit of anticipation about the coming precipitation.

“I’m excited to see some snow,” Kessler said. “… I haven’t really gotten the chance.”

As the back-and-forth with the assembled reporters went on, and the rookie center and noted opinion-giver mentioned that he found the presently cooler temperatures “kind of nice,” my Jazz coverage partner at The Tribune, Andy Larsen, tried to provide some comparative context for what the winters here would be like.

“It’s not as cold as, like, Minnesota,” Larsen said, appearing to choose a frozen Midwest locale at random.

Kessler, though, having been traded to the Jazz from the Timberwolves this past July, quickly replied with mock offense at having his inability to choose where he lives and works so casually and callously invoked.

“I like how you threw that in there,” Kessler said, faux-deadpan, before bursting into laughter a moment later.

Home state on his mind

News of the shooting which took place at the University of Virginia this week — resulting in the deaths of three football players, and injuries to several more people — has been unavoidable.

For Jazz coach Will Hardy, a Virginia native, it hit close to home. He made it a point to speak with some family members in the aftermath.

“It’s really sad. My youngest brother’s actually in grad school at UVA, so scary times,” Hardy said before Tuesday’s Knicks game. “You never want to see that pop up on the news, and you don’t know what’s going on. Your heart hurts for everybody involved.”

On a lighter note …

After being exceedingly businesslike in his media interactions his first few weeks, Hardy has really started to show off his more jovial side, beyond merely ending online conspiracy theories about him and Kessler being doppelgängers.

As he entered the interview room for his pregame session Tuesday, a Jazz PR staffer announced that Hardy wanted to begin by making a statement before taking any questions. In the past, when Quin Snyder did this, it was either to address some social justice issue taking place at the time, or to defend a player who’d been criticized in the media.

Hardy, though, went a different route.

“How are we doing? It’s good to see everybody. Before we start …,” he began very seriously, “… I’m going to give a score update for the International Free Throw Federation Championship. Simone [Fontecchio] won today, so the score is Simone 2, I have 2, and Leandro [Bolmaro] still has 0. So, we live to fight another day.”

The unprompted reference to the ongoing oddball free-throw competition the coach has with two of his players — as covered in this space a few weeks ago — was hilarious.

So too was his facetious-distraught response to Jazz radio play-by-play man David Locke sarcastically asking him if he was OK in the aftermath of such a devastating defeat.

“It was a tough day. Tough day,” Hardy said, shaking his head. “Bank shot robbed me.”