Leaving NBA Playoffs Was Bittersweet For Georges Niang

Sep 23, 2020, 7:37 AM

Georges Niang - Utah Jazz - Indiana Pacers...

Georges Niang #31 of the Utah Jazz celebrates a play during a game against the Indiana Pacers at Vivint Smart Home Arena on January 20, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Leaving the NBA bubble was a bittersweet experience for Georges Niang. The Utah Jazz forward told former Jazzman and current broadcaster Thurl Bailey about his experience in Orlando and how he’s dealt with life after the Jazz playoff run ended in the latest episode of the Thurl Talk podcast.

The Jazz entered the Orlando bubble in early July and were eliminated nearly two months later on September 2. The NBA season was suspended on March 11 after Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, and reopened with the Jazz facing the New Orleans Pelicans on July 30.

During the league’s suspension, NBA players were asked to limit their travel to help the league reopen more quickly. As a result, several players hadn’t returned to their offseason homes from when the season opened last September until earlier this month, nearly 12 months later.

“It’s a little bittersweet,” Niang said of returning home. “You get to see your family after really almost a full year of basketball, waiting, training, getting ready to play with the hiatus, and the pandemic. So, I was happy to be home until my mom started telling me that I had to start picking up after myself.”

Niang Watching Playoffs As Motivation

Bailey, who had two stints with the Jazz said he struggled to watch the playoffs after his Jazz teams were eliminated. Niang said he’s using the ongoing playoff series as motivation to improve before next season.

“I can’t lie to you watching the games on TV, I wish I was back there,” Niang said. “And I wish we were you know, competing for a championship.”

Niang said he remembers the pain of watching other teams compete when he’s looking for that added push to improve his game.

“I try to use things as a motivation,” Niang said. “I store it in the back of my mind. Whenever a rep gets hard, two months down the line, I think of that feeling that I have sitting on the couch, and being [frustrated] that we’re not there. And I try to ingrain that in my mind when I’m doing one last sprint or, or one last rep and push myself to be like, you don’t want to be back here. So this is what you need to do to stop yourself from being back and feeling this uncomfortable feeling. I love it.”

Missing Fans Allowed Mitchell, Murray To Go Off

Despite getting eliminated in the first round, Jazz fans were treated to one of the best playoff series in recent memory. Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray combined for four 50 point performances with the final game decided on a Mike Conley three-point shot that barely rimmed out.

Niang attributed part of Mitchell and Murray’s brilliance to the lack of distractions from fans in the arenas.

“The bubble situation really exposed me to how valuable fans are with the swaying of energy with being able to distract players and professionals that are in the zone,” Niang said. “And a fan may say something that that throws a player off.”

Neither Mitchell nor Murray had ever crossed the 50 point threshold in a game before each doing it twice in the first-round series.

“That’s the thing I’ve always told people about professionals when they’re in the zone, it’s so tough to break their concentration,” Nian said. “But that’s what fans are there for. Whether it’s the cheering, the yelling, the screaming, the stoppage of play, just their natural energy throws guys off. And as you can see with Donovan and Jamal Murray, those guys were so locked in that weren’t missing. It was like pickups in the summer.”

Niang is signed to a non-guaranteed deal with the Jazz for next season but can negotiate an extension with the team before the season begins. In the meantime, the forward says he’s looking to improve his game on the floor.

“It’s going to be watching a ton of film on the defensive end,” Niang said of his offseason plans. “Thinking of ways that I could help the team in multiple ways. Obviously, my ability to shoot, that’s one thing that I think I can hang my hat on. But then realizing ways that I can get guys involved by either flashing to the hoop or putting the ball on the floor a little bit, but without getting out of my role.”

You can listen to the entire Thurl Talk Podcast is the player below.

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Leaving NBA Playoffs Was Bittersweet For Georges Niang