SALT LAKE CITY — As members of the media — myself included — strolled into the Zions Bank Basketball Center on Friday afternoon, the newcomers didn’t know what to expect.
Sure, I had an idea of what the Utah Jazz Media Training Camp would look like, through studying old Jody Genessy reports, but I didn’t truly know what would happen.
“What would my jersey look like? Would the drills be hard? Will I look silly?” my mind wandered.
But then all that nervous energy was erased once I glanced at the throwback, purple and yellow Jazz practice gear gifted to all participants, including the vintage tube socks to match.
It was love at first sight; especially coming a day after the team announced their Nike Classic Edition purple uniforms for this season.
A small white placard reading: “Eric Woodyard #24”also sat atop of my new stuff.
While most complained about the throwback tube socks, I slipped mine on proudly, feeling like a young “Pistol Pete” Maravich, and then it was time to hit the court.
For a near 30-year-old guy who had given up on his NBA dream more than a decade ago, it felt great to hit the Jazz’s practice court for action and not for an interview.
Coach Quin Snyder broke the ice with a few jokes beforehand, which loosened everyone up then it was on to the regularly scheduled program.
My team, Derek’s Delights, was handpicked by none other than Derek Garduno, the Jazz’s VP of Communications. It included myself, Andy Larsen (Salt Lake Tribune), Chris Kamrani (Salt Lake Tribune), Alex Kirry (KSL), Dave Noriega (KSL), Cody McCarthy (Utah Jazz Creative Director), Alex Lowry (Utah Jazz Social Media), and Ely Martinez (Telemundo Utah). I loved the way we flowed as a unit, although we started rough.
Jazz assistant Zach Guthrie was the head coach of our squad and real MVP of the afternoon, but I’ll get to that later. He was great.
After the pre-game stretches, we went rotated through different stations led by Guthrie, Mike Wells, DeSagana Diop and the newest assistant Fotis Katsikaris.
Some of the basketball terminology I was already familiar from playing youth basketball but what I learned from the three stations the most were the method to the madness behind the Jazz’s “goofy finishes,” as well as defensive principles and three-man weave techniques.
If you watched Jazz guards Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell and even Joe Ingles, you may notice them finishing layups in a non-traditional fashion. As a kid, you’re taught to layup the ball pushing off your opposite foot of your strong hand. Well in Jazz land, that isn’t the case. Finishing with the same hand and same foot, actually throws the rim protector off with just that half of a second to give an advantage. They’re all about creating advantages. It’s tough to adjust to finishing that way at first, but once it’s mastered it’s truly a strong weapon and I actually plan on incorporating it into my repertoire in pickup games.
Learning closeout principles were also fun as we discussed ways to play strong defense in the half-court set. Jazz players are taught to cut off the middle and use their hands to cover all space on the court. That was another station we worked on and of course, a three-man weave is as fundamental as they come.
The reason why I credit coach Guthrie as the MVP of the day is because he actually drew up a simple play for our squad in the full-court scrimmages. He was clear in his delivery and made it as simplistic as possible, which led to us racking up a clutch W.
No, we didn’t play a traditional style of pickup basketball with free-for-all action, either, the games were more controlled with one team setting up on defense and the other looking to score before facing the next set on the other end of the court.
What else would you expect in Jazz land? The organization is structured, even in a media training camp and I really enjoyed that. Even Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey stopped in to take a peek.Comment on this story
My team dropped the first two games of the scrimmages, but we finished with a bang in the last one that is what mattered. My competitive nature wouldn’t have allowed me to end on a loss. Yours truly even capped off the evening with a driving layup, but I’m not here to brag about myself, it was truly a team effort and it was all in fun. In fact, I applaud every media member for participating because it felt like we were part of something special.
I honestly haven’t had that much fun on the hardwood in a long time and I left with swag to ball in on another day plus a Chick-fil-A meal. What more could you ask for from the team you cover?
The Utah Jazz Media Training Camp was a blast and I’m definitely looking forward to next year. Sign me up.
I guess Quin Snyder’s three-hour practices aren’t so bad after all… just kidding (inside joke).