Can Will Hardy still dunk? What about Mike Conley?

How ’Bout This Jazz newsletter: The Utah Jazz’s head coach and point guard debate whether they’ve still got the hops to throw one down. Plus, another — more serious — free-throw game comes to practice.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley (11) grimaces after a narrow defeat 117-115 against the Sacramento Kings in NBA basketball at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023.

When beat writers are at team practices or shootarounds, there’s often quite a bit of “hurry up and wait” ahead of the subsequent media availabilities.

So it was the other day, as we were waiting to ask Mike Conley about Donovan Mitchell’s return to Salt Lake City … only Conley took a bunch of extra shots on the court, then went through an impromptu film session with assistant coach Lamar Skeeter on his laptop.

So, while we were waiting, we talked among ourselves, as we do. Often, we get into discussing inane nonsense which has nothing to do with anything. Someone quite randomly wondered aloud if the Jazz’s Will Hardy is the tallest current head coach in the NBA. So we began listing them off and then looking up heights. Turns out that Hardy, listed as 6-foot-6 by D-III Williams College, would be shorter than the Magic’s Jamahl Mosley (6-8), the Suns’ Monty Williams (6-8), and the Lakers’ Darvin Ham (6-7).

This, however, led to an intriguing sub-question: Do we think that Hardy, being just a week-ish away from turning 35, can still dunk?

First of all, we had to ask Conley that day.

“I honestly don’t know,” he said, laughing. “I think he still could — if you give him enough head’s up, get him in the hot tub, the sauna, get him limbered up, [then] he can get up there.”

After that, we had to ask Hardy himself, naturally.

“I don’t remember the last time I tried, honestly — for fear of injury,” he replied drolly. “It’s a great question, though. Maybe I should … If you guys see me in a [walking] boot on the sideline, I’ll blame it on you!”

When the coach was asked if Conley can still dunk, though, he lit up, becoming instantly more animated.

“See, now, that’s a better question! Who cares if I can still dunk,” he replied. “Mike claims that he can still dunk.”

He went on to mention that he and Conley had actually had a conversation on the subject about 10 days ago, because the subject of the point guard’s most recent dunk in the NBA just happened to come up.

“He said he was in Memphis, and Vince Carter came up behind him and wanted him to lob it to him — and he did not,” Hardy said. “Vince Carter wanted a lob, and Mike says he turned and saw him behind him and just looked him off and went and dunked it.

That dunk happened in December of 2015. Now, some 7-plus years later, could he do it again? Hardy said that Conley acknowledged the timing and circumstances would have to be pretty much perfect for it to occur in a game.

His coach has high hopes.

“I think this is the year of the dunk,” Hardy said. “I really do. I believe that, and we’re trying to put that out in the atmosphere. I think Mike’s gonna get one.”

Another free-throw game

It’s been well-documented that Hardy has an ongoing free-throw competition going with players Simone Fontecchio and Leandro Bolmaro, with an expensive dinner at stake.

The past couple of Jazz practices, though, I’ve seen a different free-throw situation occurring — traditional small-group shooting sessions interrupted by players rotating between each of the eight hoops inside the Zions Bank Basketball Campus practice facility, required to make two free throws at each stop.

On Thursday morning, Hardy explained he got the drill from famed Spurs shooting and development guru Chip Engelland, then explained the methodology behind it.

“You have to re-center yourself after each pair. Standing at a basket and shooting 10 free throws is nice for repetition, but it’s also a little bit unrealistic,” Hardy explained. “So, you’ve got to shoot two and move to a new basket, and step up and try to make a pair. There’s nothing too deep to it — myself and some of the other guys on staff that were in San Antonio learned a lot from Chip as far as player development stuff, so we’ve tried to carry that with us.”