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Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Playoff Hiatus Helped Jazz Refocus On Purpose Of NBA Bubble

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz will return to the floor after a three-day playoff basketball hiatus on Sunday. In total, the Jazz will have had played just two games in six days after Sunday’s result, a rare opportunity inside the NBA bubble. On Saturday, Jazz players and coaches said the unplanned time away from the floor helped the team refocus on the social issues that defined their purpose for entering the bubble.

The hiatus began when the Milwaukee Bucks attempted to forfeit their Wednesday meeting with the Orlando Magic after Jacob Blake, a Black man was shot by a Wisconsin Police Officer forty miles from where the Bucks play their home games.

During the time away, NBA players gathered as a group and requested a new commitment from league owners, leading to the league’s teams turning their home arenas into voting centers for their communities.

Jazz Refocusing On The Purpose After Hiatus

The NBA players used the time away from the court to refocus on their plan when they traveled to Orlando. Along with the social messaging on their jerseys and the floor, the players wanted to have their voices heard.

“The game is taking a backseat to what’s important in a lot of our lives,” Jazz guard Mike Conley said. “And for us to have the opportunity to not only play the game we love but speak out on certain issues we want to raise awareness to or see a change in our world is unbelievable platform and we just have to continue to push.”

With each team in the bubble competing every other day, and the importance of the games increasing, the social messaging from the NBA players began to lose its impact. After Blake was shot last Sunday, doubt surrounded the players in Orlando on whether they were having the impact they had hoped.

“We can’t do anything [from Orlando],” Bucks guard George Hill said Monday. “First of all, we shouldn’t have even came to this [expletive] place, to be honest. I think coming here just took all the focal points off what the issues are.”

But with three days for players and coaches to step away from the games, gather together, and recenter their focus, there appears to be newfound energy towards the remainder of the season, and the goal of sharing their social message.

“I don’t think those two things are mutually exclusive. In fact, it’s quite the opposite,” Jazz coach QuinSynder said. “There’s an awareness that guys are down here playing in order to impact social justice issues and there was a pause, so to speak, and I think that was important for a lot of people to refocus and make sure that we continue to have those opportunities and recognize them.”

Preparing for Game Six

The Jazz last took the floor in a game five loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday. After a tumultuous break, the team said it is combining its call for social justice into their preparation for Sunday’s game.

“It gives us the opportunity to play the game and showcase what we believe in,” Conley said.

The Jazz held a closed practice Friday after the hiatus, not making their players available to the media after the session. After the team’s Saturday practice, All-Star center Rudy Gobert also spoke his mental preparation for game six after the hiatus.

“We’re not totally focused on the game,” Gobert admitted. “Obviously there’s a lot of things going on. There’s been a lot going on and there’s going to keep being a lot of things going. As a professional, you try to make sure sure that you do whatever is in your power to be at your best when it’s time to be at your best. But at the same time, fighting the fights that we’re fighting on the side. It’s bigger than just basketball.”

The Jazz and Nuggets tip-off Sunday’s game six at 6:30 pm MT. The game will be broadcast nationally on TNT and locally on AT&T SportsNet.

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