Some players who aren’t regularly playing have a tendency to become aloof.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Utah Jazz point guard Collin Sexton.
Though Thursday’s win in Orlando was his 20th missed game this season, as he’s battled several hamstring injuries, Sexton was exuberant enough on the sideline while cheering on his teammates that coach Will Hardy was asked about it afterward.
“That’s Collin — Collin loves basketball, Collin loves being on a team. He has one of the purest elements of joy to him,” said Hardy. “There’s part of him that’s still just a kid playing basketball with his friends. He approaches it like that. He works very hard, he’s very diligent, but he’s fired up for his teammates, he’s engaged in the locker room, he always has a big smile on his face.
“… That’s just who Collin is — his energy is the same as if he was playing,” Hardy added. “He’s pouring it into the game, he’s very focused, he’s listening in the timeouts — he wants to win, he wants our team to win. And it comes from a really pure place.”
He noted that was hardly the first time and certainly won’t be the last that Sexton draws attention for being boisterous in his support. Asking him to tone it down right now, even just slightly, is futile on account of it being his only outlet while he’s sidelined.
“He’s dying to play. Dying,” Hardy added, pausing for emphasis, “to get out there and play. And he’s getting close. … It’s frustrating ‘cause he’s such a competitor and he wants to be out there. But he finds a way to channel all that energy to let it rip on the bench. I’ve had to tell him to sit down multiple times ‘cause of the new rule where you can’t stand in the corner, and I’ve had multiple officials say, ‘Hey, you gotta tell Sexton to sit down.’ And I’m like, ‘I’m trying, but I can’t really control him — that’s how he is.’”
At one point, Hardy noted that Sexton is so unfailingly eager to please that the coach initially believed it was a sarcastic put-on rather than genuine niceness.
“I think he’s said, ‘Yes sir’ to almost everything I’ve said to him this season — and it took me three weeks to realize that he’s not a smartass! I was that smartass when I was a kid, so I thought that that’s what he was doing,” Hardy said, smirking. “And then all of a sudden you realize, ‘No, this is who Collin is.’ He is a caring, polite, engaged, look-you-in-the-eye, ‘Yes sir; no sir’ type of kid. We’re lucky to have him in Utah.”
Which doesn’t mean he loves everything about his point guard.
“That’s a terrible shirt he wore tonight, though. He’s like 40 years late on that shirt, I think — it was ‘80-something,” Hardy said of Sexton’s black, roomy cap-sleeve T-shirt. “When I saw him, I didn’t know if we were going to a concert or I didn’t know what was happening. [Though] I don’t have much style, so I probably shouldn’t comment on this.”
Damian Jones already loves Utah
When you trade away four players, bring back three, buy out one of them, add a couple guys on 10-day contracts, release a guy to play in Europe, and give some extra time to a two-way signee, the roster is obviously going to have a different dynamic.
Some of the players, such as veteran point guard Kris Dunn and rookie shooting guard Johnny Juzang, we’ve gotten to know a bit. Others remain a work in progress.
New big man Damian Jones is intriguing. Asked about his off-court interests, he rattled off some of the standards, such as playing video games (he’s a PS5 and Switch guy, with an affinity for the the Mario games and Super Smash Bros.), but one other answer was a bit more off the beaten path.
“Sometimes [I’m] out and about, just checking out the scenery,” he said.
Last June, before he was even tangentially tied to the Jazz, he made an offseason trip to Utah just to spend some time in its picturesque national parks.
“I like scenery and hiking, you know? So it fits,” said Jones. “… I would say Arches is probably my favorite place that I’ve been to so far. Just because it looks crazy. But, yeah, I went to Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce [Canyon] and Zion. It was a good trip.”
While Yosemite during waterfall season remains perhaps his favorite outdoors spot, the Devils Garden Trail in Arches impressed him quite a bit. Now that he’s here, he’s got the itch to check a few more Utah places off his list, and has started making plans for when he has some extra time.
Meanwhile, after someone suggested he go snowshoeing, the the 6-foot-10 center said he’s keen to try it, but explained there’s been a slight hiccup.
“Yeah, somebody was telling me about that — but I’ve got to find some that fit my feet!”