Jazz Training Camp Opens With More Experience, New Personalities

Sep 28, 2021, 6:02 PM | Updated: 6:40 pm

Utah Jazz center Hassan Whiteside (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)...

Utah Jazz center Hassan Whiteside (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Training camp is underway for the Utah Jazz, and with it, the team is welcoming more experience and a few unique new personalities to the roster.

After re-signing Mike Conley in the offseason, the Jazz set themselves up to bring back the top eight players in the rotation last season. With the additions of long-time NBA veterans Rudy Gay and Hassan Whiteside, they guaranteed themselves a more experienced roster heading into the 2021-22 year.

After one day of training camp, Jazz coach Quin Snyder and guard Mike Conley discussed the advantages of experience and the addition of new personalities to the locker room.

Experience Gives Jazz Leg Up In Training Camp

One of the more impressive stats for the Jazz heading into the season is that 349 of the team’s 360 starts from last year are back on the roster this season. Only Georges Niang who started 10 games and Ersan Ilyasova who started one game aren’t on this year’s Jazz roster.

As a result, Conley said the Jazz are starting training further ahead than they might have in previous seasons.

“Normally in training camp, we spend a good amount of time just walking around and going through detail after detail,” Conley said. “With the vets we brought in, Hassan, with Rudy, with Eric [Paschall], with Jared [Butler], the way he’s able to pick up on things so quickly, we’re allowed to just skip all that.”

It’s an advantage for a team that finished last season with the best record in the NBA but needs to continue to improve to advance deeper into the postseason.

“We can skip over steps one, two, and three in our training camp,” Conley said, “and go immediately to working on basically pick up where we left off in the playoffs.”

Snyder has overseen a dramatic improvement of the team since he took over in 2014, growing the team’s win percentages from .463 to a league-best .722 last year. Now, the coach acknowledges, comes the different part of improving where there’s less obvious room for growth.

“To go from four to scratch, it’s a lot harder than to go from a 14 [handicap] to four,” Snyder said comparing to the Jazz improvement to golf.

Snyder said some of those improvements may be as minor as a small tweak to the team’s spacing, or simply doing more of the things that made the Jazz successful last season.

“The offseason gives you a chance to really dig in on those things and commit to them.”

Welcoming New Personalities

As is the case in most work environments, the longer a person has been in their line of work, the more comfortable they are likely to be to let their personalities shine through, as the other more monotonous details of the job fall become second hand.

The NBA is no different, as the longer a player has been in the league, the more comfortable they are showing their unique personalities understanding their play on the floor has done enough to keep them around in one of the most competitive environments on the planet.

At media day on Monday, both of the Jazz’s newest veterans showed off their unique personalities. Gay displayed a tremendous amount of wisdom, perspective, and self-awareness, while Whiteside flashed a comical amount of honesty regarding his past opinions of his new teammates including his fear of his new coach, and his hatred of Joe Ingles.

Perhaps most interesting was Whiteside’s confession that he struggled with the age gap between himself and his Sacramento Kings teammates last season.

“A lot of these guys are around my age,” Whiteside said of quickly connecting to his new Jazz teammates. “In Sacramento, I think I was the oldest guy on the team, these guys have been eight or more years like me, so the relationship is easy.”

Along with a mid-season change in the Kings’ goals from making the playoffs to developing their young talent, Whiteside’s connection with the roster off the floor may be part of the reason the center struggled to impact the game on the court.

Snyder admitted that helping the new veterans ease into their situation in training camp is an important step before they can help the Jazz.

“It’s my job to try to figure out how to help them be better. And I think a big part of that is how to help them feel comfortable and fit in and be connected,” Snyder said.

And, with his new veterans more comfortable, the more he thinks they can bring to the franchise.

“I think Rudy’s maturity and experience — he’s got a voice, I think as he’s here longer, I can see leadership ability because of his experience, because of his unselfishness. I think Hassan, there’s a levity — Hassan has got a great sense of humor,” Snyder said.

“The more you embrace that different people bring different things, the more they add.”

Miye Oni’s Busy Summer

Miye Oni was one of two Jazz players (Trent Forrest) that didn’t speak to the media yesterday during media day, and that might have been the first day off that the third-year guard had all summer.

While most Jazz fans know the guard played with the Nigerian National Team during the Olympics, including an upset of the eventual gold medal-winning Team USA during exhibition play, Oni also worked towards completing his degree and released a new rap album.

“Basically all summer, I’d just work out, do school, and go to the studio, and repeat,” the Jazz guard said after day one of training camp. “That’s basically my been my life for like months.”

Oni’s new album, “Scars Of Life” was released under the moniker TGF Prince and features tracks that the guard both rapped on and some that he produced.

The guard said he’s also closing in on his degree, working to keep a promise he made to his mother before declaring early for the NBA Draft.

“Before I left school, my mom said I couldn’t leave early unless I finished my degree within five years,” Oni said. “But it is important to me as well.”

Hailing from Yale, Oni said he has four classes left before earning his degree in political science.

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Jazz Training Camp Opens With More Experience, New Personalities