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August 19, 2022

Why the Utah Jazz traveled to Las Vegas for training camp

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) and Jazz guard Mike Conley (11) talk in the hallway after being interviewed during the Utah Jazz media day at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

LAS VEGAS — Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder walked into one of the many ballrooms the Jazz have taken over in the Wynn and sarcastically remarked: “Do you think we have enough room?”

The room that features tall ceilings and sparkling chandeliers is often reserved for lavish banquets or receptions. This week, however, it’s being used as a media center. Similar ones are being used as meeting rooms for coaches, weight rooms and, of course, a basketball facility.

The organization has brought two courts down — the city edition and the 1997 throwback one — to Vegas.

The Jazz pulled out all the stops to transform the ballrooms into an elite basketball center. But with a state-of-the-art practice facility in Salt Lake City, what’s the purpose of taking training camp on the road?

The answer comes back to a strange time for the league: the NBA bubble.

Snyder said the experience really helped his team come together. While that didn’t necessarily lead to playoff success — Utah was eliminated in the first round during the restart — it served as a catalyst for what ended up being the best regular season team in the league a season ago.

“I thought it really helped our team,” Snyder said. “It was a lot of things. It was eating together, ping pong table, it was something as simple as coming down the elevator and walking through the hallway and you’re at the gym.”

The Jazz were in the middle of the NBA shutdown and a rift between Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell was among the biggest news of the break. The time in the bubble helped the team overcome all that.

Utah isn’t in need to heal any schisms among the team entering this season, but there are some things that are still lingering. The abrupt second-round defeat is still relatively fresh and with the vast majority of the team returning, Snyder thought it would be best to imitate the best of the bubble experience this training camp.

So he called Albert Hall at HallPass Media, one of the men responsible for the Las Vegas Summer League, to see what he could do. It turns out, Hall was able to do a lot. Jazz art throughout the ballrooms to make it feel like home? Sure. NBA courts under chandeliers? That too.

“I honestly didn’t even notice it until you said that — shows my attention to detail,” Joe Ingles said of the chandeliers hanging high above the courts. “17-year-old Joe would have kicked the ball up there or something and broke it. Which is good because it shows I’m mature now.”

That glamorous stage is what Snyder hopes will serve as a launching pad for the season.

“I think the time for us to be together and have real dialogue about what it is we need to do to be better and set the table that way is as important as anything,” Snyder said. “Las Vegas gives us a chance to do that. I don’t know if that includes the craps table or not, but that’s OK, too. We want guys to connect and bond and be together.”

In the end, that’s what this trip is about — basketball almost comes secondary, though there will still be plenty of that, too. Snyder’s first practice of the camp went over two hours on Tuesday morning.

But with so many returning players, even the extended practice is a little more fun. Utah has moved past some of the installation and the learning process and jumped right into what every player prefers anyway: actually playing.

“You’re allowed to just skip all that work on everything and they can kind of expedite your situation,” Mike Conley said.

That will lead to more down time to bond.

And so far, it appears to be working. A smirk appeared on Mitchell’s face as he was asked what the funniest moment was from the team’s dinner together on Monday. He took a breath as if he were about to speak and then thought better of it.

“Nah, I’m not gonna share it,” Mitchell said.

But there was something, and for Snyder, that’s what mattered.

“It builds camaraderie,” Mitchell said. “Being here, going up to your hotel, going to eat, lose a little bit of money here and there. It builds that.”

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