Digital ink has been spent in the gallons debating if Rudy Gobert was careless, if the NBA should even ethically return to play, the effectiveness of a bubble, Gobert and Donovan Mitchell’s feud, Utah Jazz player’s supporting of Black Lives Matter, the COVID case rates in Florida, the COVID death rates in Florida, and digital fans on signboards. Tonight ink will finally be spent in the coverage of an NBA game that actually counts. There will inevitably be more as COVID testing capacity tightens even further, COVID continues to rage, and the NBA’s bubble continues to stay intact. But tonight, the Utah Jazz get to enjoy a national spotlight that is reserved for what they actually do: play basketball. Their opponent is the New Orleans Pelicans who feature former Jazzman Derrick Favors.
That doesn’t mean that the Pelicans and Jazz will just “shut up and dribble.” It is reported that both teams will kneel during the National Anthem with Donovan Mitchell saying the opportunity to spread a message about Breonna Taylor and Black Lives Matter is going to be “monumental.” More of a reason to tune in to see one of the Jazz’s own leading the charge for social change.
Sorry did a little quick editing of the transcription that may add clarity. pic.twitter.com/gp7K68Ii3t— Ben Anderson (@BensHoops) July 29, 2020
First look at the custom Adidas D.O.N. Issue 2 that @spidadmitchell will wear tonight against New Orleans Say Their Names pic.twitter.com/g5UPQtlKJP— B/R Kicks (@brkicks) July 30, 2020
Donovan Mitchell will be sporting some sweet D.O.N. Issue #2 that have written on them “READY FOR CHANGE” and “SAY HER NAME.” Those who have been active in their communities in support of Black Lives Matter over the past couple months are Derrick Favors, Jordan Clarkson, Donovan Mitchell, Royce O’Neale, Rudy Gobert, Jrue Holiday, Lonzo Ball, JJ Redick, and Brandon Ingram.
On the basketball front, the Jazz will be looking to make their way up in the Western Conference seeding. Currently the Jazz reside in 4th and will be trying to avoid a matchup with the Houston Rocket in the playoffs. The Pelicans will begin their last minute playoff push. With much less games but the strength of opponent still weak, the Pellies are hoping to make a last ditch run at 9th and the play-in game. Zion Williamson is back with the squad, healthy, and could be a problem. Derrick Favors knows this Jazz team inside and out. Tonight’s matchup should be the proper introduction for Utah in their preparations for the playoffs.
When: Thursday, July 30, 2020 • 4:30 PM MT
Where: The NBA Bubble, Disney World
TV: TNT, TNT Overdrive, AT&T Sports Net Rocky Mountain, NBA League Pass
Radio: 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone
What to watch for
A subsection of Jazz fans lamenting about the “good old days of basketball”
The Utah Jazz will be kneeling during the national anthem on a court that says Black Lives Matter with their young phenom demanding action for Breonna Taylor. There has been a louder than it should be minority of Jazz fans that continue to spread lies and believe conspiracy theories about Black Lives Matter. They have held on to the “BLM protestors are looters” and avoid tough conversations about taxpayer funded and paid for police departments. For those individuals who dive into Jazz player mentions to shout “All Lives Matter,” tout MAGA talking points, and fall in line behind a President who uses ICE as his own police force against BLM protests when cities don’t want the them, tonight is going to test their follow through when it comes to their “If they kneel, I’m done with basketball” tweets from when Colin Kaepernick was taking heat four years ago.
There’s another part to this. It’s also a firm sign of support from the Utah Jazz organization. There’s no fence sitting going on with the Jazz. They support Black Lives Matter. They support the efforts of their players and staff. You’re going to read a lot of false equivalency, whataboutisms with China (which by the way need to be addressed but the NBA isn’t the only American company with business ties to China), and “did you know they’re Marxists?” tweeted.
I say all this to remind you, it may seem loud and a big majority for a blip. Their tweets may be the strawman to out of market fans and journalists for how Utah responds to the act of solidarity before the game. But they’re really not. They’re a Commodore 64 that stole a 28k modem in an iPhone era. The good majority of Jazz fans are happy to see their players committed to making a big social impact in their communities and around the nation.
Derrick Favors and Zion Williamson vs Rudy Gobert and the rim
If you’re not excited to see Zion Williamson challenge Rudy Gobert at the rim, I’d dare say you don’t love basketball. While I don’t want to see Zion have success challenging Rudy, I 100% want him to take it at him any chance he gets. You want to see Titans fight and this is a way to see that. Rudy Gobert has his hands full as Utah will have Royce O’Neale or Joe Ingles guarding Zion Williamson, god rest their souls. Guarding Zion would have been a tall order if Utah still had Jae Crowder or Derrick Favors, but they don’t.
This could be the reason we saw Utah employ a twin towers lineup of Tony Bradley and Rudy Gobert. Tony can’t keep up with Zion on the perimeter but he can give him the Ricky Rubio treatment and stay camped near the paint. Take away his preferred shot and pray to the basketball Gods Gobert is there to provide backup because whoever is guarding Zion is going to need it.
Donovan Mitchell vs Jrue Holiday
Lonzo Ball will most likely get the guard against Mike Conley and Jrue Holiday will get Donovan Mitchell. The Pelicans have insane length on this team. Holiday, Ball, Ingram, Zion, and Favors all got that LENGTH. Donovan Mitchell is going to have to overcome that while putting a big scoring burden on himself. Mike Conley could get taken out early in this game as the Pelicans will want to see if Mitchell has truly purged himself of his “takeover no matter what” ways.
Taking on that scoring burden has to look different for Mitchell. He has to take what the defense gives him. He’s been great at looking for Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors never played with a Donovan Mitchell who was looking for the lob first and then his shot second. That strategy change should allow Utah to get their shooters some much needed space. They’re going to need every last inch because the Pelicans defenders will be able to close out on shooters a lot faster using their tall humans.
We made it. We’re here. I don’t know how long the bubble will last, if it’ll make it the entire playoffs, or if the US will need tests so badly that the NBA has to abandon their very well designed plan because of America’s ineptitude. But what I do know is we get to enjoy basketball. Tonight. If there’s anything the pandemic has taught me it is to not take things for granted. Having basketball to look forward to—even if it’s just for one day—is energizing. There’s a lot of things going south in the US right now, so it is a very welcome sight to see a leader—even if it’s an NBA commissioner—execute on a well made plan in the interest of the safety of those who follow them and their livelihoods.
Let’s play some basketball.