March 13th, 2020. This date will forever be etched in Utah Jazz fans’ memories for years to come. It is a “where were you when” event. I will remember that I was on a hike with my wife and decided to take a look at my phone at the top of the trail. I saw the Rudy Gobert news and the stoppage of play with the confusion. I turned to my wife and said, “We gotta get back to the car quick. Something big is going down.” Two days later I was out of an office and working from home. Two days after that the lockdowns started. Life hasn’t been the same since. Today it begins to feel a bit more normal for Jazz fans. Tonight the Utah Jazz will face off against the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Bubble.
When: Thursday, July 23, 2020 • 6:00 PM MT
Where: The NBA Bubble, Disney World
TV: AT&T Sports Net Rocky Mountain, NBA League Pass
Radio: 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone
What to watch for
The Utah Jazz could go out, lose by 80 tonight, and I would STILL be the happiest man on the planet. With the way the world is right now—actually just the US since we’re the only ones going into quadruple overtime with COVID19 Wave 1—this feels so needed. Just to have something on tv. Something to root for that isn’t a battle of masks, misinformation from your crazy uncle on Facebook, or whether Carol Baskins really did kill that guy (she did). It just feels so relieving to invest for something with lower stakes. Not that we need to put important things on the backburner, but we all need an hour and a half timeout right now to help us recharge.
How does this team look without Bojan Bogdanovic?
Leading up to this reopening, I truly feel the Utah Jazz have the biggest variance for success of any team. That includes teams like Phoenix, Portland, San Antonio, or any other on the bubble team. That’s due to how the locker room imploded right after the game in OKC, Bojan Bogdanovic’s injury, Mike Conley’s up and down play through the season, and Utah’s on again/off again intensity. After 50 games, I don’t think anyone felt like they had a read on who the Jazz were.
If the shutdown had never happened, the Jazz probably would have been a team defined by their failure to maximize their potential. That still could be the case, BUT they have a chance to flip the script. Without Bojan’s 50/40/90 percentages getting him 20 points a night, Utah has to put that usage rate somewhere else. That means Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles, and Royce O’Neale all will have more of a responsibility to step up. Whether that’s on the offensive end at the end of the shot clock for Conley and Jordan or on the defensive end with Ingles and O’Neale, those changes fundamentally change the identity in a way for this team.
That identity change opens up Utah for a second chance to right some wrongs of their season and maximize the potential of their remaining players.
Is Phoenix going to be a problem inside the bubble?
Ricky Rubio—Utah’s point guard from last season—finally was able to make the trip to the bubble after battling COVID19. He’s limited right now and we probably won’t see much or any of him tonight. That means point guard responsibilities fall to Elie Okobo ... except he’s out as well. He’s not with the team and the Suns have not said why. He’s just not there. That means Jevon Carter whom we saw at Utah Summer League will get a lot of time alongside Devin Booker who will be playing a lot of point guard. Aaron Baynes (aka Gobert killer because who knows why) is not in Orlando and neither is Kelly Oubre.
Phoenix Suns center Aron Baynes (@AronBaynes) tells me on @Stadium that he tested positive for coronavirus and opens up about how virus has impacted life for over a month for him, his wife and kids: pic.twitter.com/v2LDwpsZ89— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 22, 2020
That doesn’t mean the Suns are slouches by any means. DeAndre Ayton is back in the lineup. The Suns are a better offensive and defensive team when he’s in the lineup. He was averaging close to 19 points and 12 rebounds a game when healthy. He’ll be a very good first test for Rudy Gobert as he works his way back into the basketball grind.
What are the rules and who’s not active tonight for Utah?
Here are the rules for tonight’s scrimmage.
NBA scrimmages start Wednesday. Each team in Orlando will play 3 of them. Each team’s first game will be 40 minutes long (10-minute quarters), and their remaining two games will be standard 48 minutes. Games will also be shown on NBA TV or League Pass. pic.twitter.com/zpR2VwJsIq— Eric Walden (@tribjazz) July 21, 2020
So far we only know that Bojan Bogdanovic is out for obvious reasons. We should expect Conley, Mitchell, Ingles, O’Neale, Clarkson and Gobert to get about 20 minutes of run tonight. That means we’re going to see a lot of time from Rayjon Tucker, Georges Niang, Emmanuel Mudiay, Jarrell Brantley, Tony Bradley, Ed Davis, Juwan Morgan, Miye Oni, Nigel Williams-Goss, and Justin Wright-Foreman.
Tonight’s scrimmage will start out as a Jazz-Suns game and end as a SLC Stars-NAZ Suns game.