Niang Focused On Team Safety, Not Role With Jazz

Dec 3, 2020, 2:53 PM
Utah Jazz forward Georges Niang defends Jerami Grant (Photo by Ashley Landis - Pool/Getty Images)...
Utah Jazz forward Georges Niang defends Jerami Grant (Photo by Ashley Landis - Pool/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ashley Landis - Pool/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz are back in training camp with changes to the roster and new safety protocols in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. With regular-season games less than three weeks away, forward Georges Niang is less worried about his role on the team and more concerned about keeping his teammates healthy.

The NBA bubble in Orlando was an overwhelming success from a health perspective. From early July through mid-October, there were zero confirmed positive COVID-19 tests among the 22 teams that competed in the Disney bubble.

That’s a stark contrast from the 48 players who tested positive this week as rosters regathered to begin training camp.

Now, with the risk of exposure higher than it was in Orlando, Niang said his teammates on the Jazz understood the importance of being cautious.

“All of us are following the safety protocols,” Niang said. “The NBA has done a great job of listing things out of what we can and cannot do. I think all of our guys are taking that pretty seriously.”

There’s added concern within the Jazz lockerroom as guard Joe Ingles has a family member who is immunocompromised, and may face added consequence if he were to contract COVID-19.

“Joe has given us all a pep talk on really locking in and really following the rules,” Niang said. “Because if it’s important to him, it’s important all of us.”

The Jazz found themselves at the center of the COVID-19 outbreak in the US after Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell became the first two NBA players to publically test positive for the virus in March.

While the Jazz haven’t reported whether any of the players they invited to training camp were among the 48 players who tested positive, Niang said run-ins with the virus may be unavoidable.

“If we could go through the whole year with nobody touching the coronavirus, that’d be a blessing. I can only control what I do and the Jazz organization can only control what the Jazz organization does, I think that’s what we’re really just focusing on.”

Niang Less Concerned With Role

With Bojan Bogdanovic hoping to be healthy enough to return to action to begin the season, and former Jazzman Derrick Favors back on the roster, Niang could see his role within the rotation change.

According to basketball-reference, Niang played more than 80 percent of his minutes at the power forward position in the Jazz lineups. With Favors assuming the roughly 15 minutes backup center minutes available behind Gobert, all indications point to the newly acquired big man earning added minutes behind Bogdanovic at the other frontcourt position.

While that could alter where Niang finds himself on the floor, he said he wasn’t concerned with any changes to the rotation.

“Whether Coach decides to play Derrick favors, or me, or someone else because of matchups, that’s going to be a night in night out basis,” Niang said. “I don’t think we look at anything as a logjam. I think we look at it as different guys for different roles, and different opportunities in different games.”

Without a true backup point guard, Ingles may see more minutes as an initiator in the second unit and fewer minutes alongside Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell in the starting lineup.

As a result, the move may open minutes for Niang to shift to other wing position opposite smaller opponents.

“I’m just going out there and doing things to try to help my team win,” Niang said. “Whether that’s playing minutes at the three, playing minutes at the four, or if Favs has more minutes at the four — as long as we win games, Georges Niang is a happy camper.”

The Jazz begin their preseason schedule on December 12 against the Phoenix Suns. The team’s regular-season schedule is set to be released later this week.

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Niang Focused On Team Safety, Not Role With Jazz