Usually we’re in Florida right now, which would be pretty nice,’’ he said. “But we’ve been lucky, we haven’t played on Christmas or any of the holidays since I’ve been here. —Gordon Hayward
SALT LAKE CITY – The last time the Utah Jazz played a home game on Dec. 21 was long before any of the current players were even born. In fact, the last time the Jazz played a home game on this date, coach Quin Snyder was just a junior at Mercer Island High School in Washington.
You have to go back to 1983 when the Adrian Dantley and Darrell Griffith-led Jazz defeated the Indiana Pacers 133-115 at the old Salt Palace to find a Jazz home game four days before Christmas.
That’s because starting in 1984, the NBA started a tradition of always putting the Jazz on the road the week before Christmas for trips that lasted anywhere from four to 11 days and usually consisted of five to six games.
This year, the long-time tradition ended, as the Jazz will just have a single road game in the week before Christmas – Wednesday night at Golden State – after playing three home games before that.
The third of those home games will be played Monday night when the Phoenix Suns pay a visit to Vivint Arena for a 7 p.m. game.
However, the Jazz players aren’t necessarily singing, “Oh there’s no place like home for the holidays.’’
Gordon Hayward, who is the longest-tenured Jazz player and has been on four of the pre-Christmas road trips doesn’t necessarily think it’s great that the Jazz are home for the holidays.
“Usually we’re in Florida right now, which would be pretty nice,’’ he said. “But we’ve been lucky, we haven’t played on Christmas or any of the holidays since I’ve been here.’’
It’s true, that in each of the last three years, the Jazz pre-Christmas trip included stops in Miami and Orlando. Last year, the Jazz also went to New Orleans and Charlotte before finishing up in Memphis. The year before, Utah also finished in Memphis after going to Atlanta and Charlotte besides Miami and Orlando.
However, it hasn’t always been sun ‘n fun for the Jazz on their pre-Christmas road trips. Hayward forgets about the 2010 trip in his rookie season when the Jazz, after starting in New Orleans, went to Milwaukee and Cleveland before finishing up on Dec. 22 in Minnesota, perhaps the coldest stop in the NBA.
Still he sees the advantage of being home, instead of on the road for a week before Christmas.
“It’s nice to have some time before the holidays to be at home with the family and obviously when Christmas comes to be able to have that with my family is great,’’ he said. Hayward did say he would “love it” if the Jazz were chosen for one of the Christmas Day NBA games and added “hopefully we’ll get there eventually.’’
But he also said, “It is nice that we can be at home on Christmas and not travel.’’
As for coach Quin Snyder, he says he’s “indifferent” about whether the Jazz are on the home or road before Christmas.
“I don’t really a preference, I’ve done it both ways,’’ he said. “We rarely celebrate birthdays or holidays on a given day anyway. Do you celebrate on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? Usually our schedule dictates that.’’
“There’s holidays all year long and they’re all different,’’ he continued. “Christmas happens to be much larger -- Christmas is clearly a special day. There’s like four or five games on Christmas Day, I’ve done that too. We just have to prepare.’’
Snyder also says it’s business as usual when you’re in the NBA when it comes to holidays.
“There’s not a lot stocking stuffing going on,’’ he said. “You’ve got to get on Amazon and shop at night. You play the next day.''
As for the Suns, the Jazz will be facing a team that is in a similar spot in the Western Conference standings, just behind the Jazz’s 11-14 mark at 12-17, having played five more games and losing at home to Milwaukee Sunday afternoon.
The Suns are led by starting guards Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, who average 22.0 ppg and 19.9 ppg, respectively. The other expected starters are forwards P.J. Tucker and Jon Leuer and veteran center Tyson Chandler.
“It starts with their guards and we need to contain them,’’ said Hayward. “We can’t let them get any easy baskets in transition. It takes a conscious effort by all of us. If we can make them play in our half-court defense it will be a lot better for us than in the open court, because they’re really good in the open court.’’
Snyder was asked if the Suns guards will bring the same challenge as Portland’s guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
“I hope Bledsoe and Knight don’t shoot like that,’’ he said. “It’s not one-on-one and it’s not two-on-two. It has to be all five guys You’ve got to help each other.’’
After Monday night’s game, the Jazz play at Golden State Wednesday and then play a pair of homes games, Saturday against the L.A. Clippers and Monday against Philadelphia.