Utah Jazz coach Will Hardy expects this season’s training camp to be “vicious.”
“I would describe it as ‘The Hunger Games,’” Hardy said.
So a fight-for-your-life, bloodsport-for-playing-time, last-man-standing-wins-the-starting-job kind of vicious, if the Jazz coach is true to the source material.
Outside expectations won’t be super high considering how young the team is and how many players they’ve lost in the last 18 months: Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley just to name a few. But in that void, Hardy sees opportunity — and that’s how these (Hunger) games begin.
For Hardy, it’ll be his plethora of guards that will use training camp to fight for minutes during the season — namely Jordan Clarkson, Talen Horton-Tucker, Collin Sexton, Kris Dunn and Keyonte George.
“Those five guys are gonna go at it in training camp, and I love that,” Hardy said.
Hardy stressed that the Jazz are in discovery mode. Figuring out what combinations of players work best together in certain situations will be a season-long endeavor. There could be rookies that play themselves into big roles, he said, or they might lean on veterans more. Clarkson, a star for Utah last season, could come off the bench, he said.
“Nothing is set in stone,” Hardy said. “We could be the team that changes the starting lineup once every 10 days just based on the matchup. If we can get our team to think about that as something that’s OK, that’s going be great because that’s a strength.”
And who might volunteer as tribute?
After invoking “The Hunger Games” during a news conference Monday, Hardy was asked how many Katniss Everdeens he has on this year’s team.
It took Hardy a bit to find a comparison for the main character who volunteers to fight to save her sister, but he eventually got there.
“I’m gonna go with Kelly [Olynyk],” Hardy said. “Kelly has a way of fitting in with everybody. So we have one. I’m sure the other guys will be offended.”
Could Olynyk be vicious enough to win it all?
“Yeah, but you don’t think that when he walks in,” the coach replied.
In the Jazz’s version, though, everyone comes out better for it.
“There has to be a culture of flexibility and understanding that we’re as a collective group trying to win every game and compete,” Jazz general manager Justin Zanik said. “And some days, it’s going to be a particular set of eight or nine players and another game, it may be a different set of eight or nine players. Continuing on that journey and being connected together, I think, will be my biggest hope for the group.”