Exploring, relaxing and ... farming? Jazz players did it all this offseason
Rudy Gobert wanted to see the stars.
“Not the Salt Lake City Stars,” he clarified. “The real stars.”
So the Utah Jazz center closed out his summer with teammates Raul Neto and Naz Mitrou-Long in a place they knew they’d have a great view: Lake Powell.
Neto spent the summer traveling around the world—Brazil, Spain, France and Switzerland—but it was his trip to the western desert that he called one of the best of his life.
“I did so many things for the first time in my life,” Neto said, a smile coming over his face as he recalled the excursion. “I think it’s something that I’ve never experienced before.”
Helicopter rides, boating, wake surfing—and taking in the red-rock landscape.
“It’s crazy,” Neto said. “It looks like you’re not in this world. It looks like you’re on another planet. It’s something beautiful. Every day, to wake up and see these views, the lake, the rocks, it was something special.
“That was unreal, man,” he said. “I’d heard a lot about it prior to getting there. People were always talking about the stars and all that. It sounds super cliché—‘Oh my god, the stars were amazing!’—but it really was. It was special. It’s easily one of the favorite places I’ve been in my life.”
It was a last hurrah before the start of training camp and a chance to unplug.
“Just the fact that we didn’t have our phones for three days, it kind of disconnected me from everything,” Neto said. “And I got my energy back for the season.”
Well, there were some phones involved.
“Naz was taking some good pictures,” Gobert said, crediting the team’s guard for some of his Instagram posts.
“He had a good amount that he asked me for,” Mitrou-Long admitted with a laugh. “But I’d be lying if I didn’t ask him to take my phone right after and ask him to get me. And we could throw Raul into that mix. Don’t let him fool you.”
With the preseason schedule set to tip off Saturday night when the Jazz host the Perth Wildcats at Vivint Smart Home Arena, it’s safe to say that summer has come to a close. But before we get completely back into NBA action, let’s take a quick look at how some of the other Jazz players spent their offseason.
By now, you’ve probably heard all about the star guard’s summer travels. He traversed the globe, visiting the EuroLeague finals in Serbia, attending a video game release in Shanghai, and hanging out with fans in Greece.
How many flights did he take in all?
“I got tired just thinking about that,” Mitchell said. “Probably about 40.”
That’s a lot, especially for someone with a fear of flying.
“I hate it,” Mitchell said. “I’ve gotten used to it now. I’ve gotten over it. It’s not as bad as it once was. Well, I say that and then when I get on the plane I’ll probably freak out.”
A year ago, O’Neale didn’t know what was going to happen. The defensive-minded forward was looking for a deal with an NBA team, but his future was uncertain.
After establishing himself as a key contributor with the Jazz last year, O’Neale was able to relax a little more this summer. He spent time at home in Texas, trained in Miami, and vacationed in the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands.
“It was a lot different,” he said. “Just having an actual summer, getting time to enjoy myself, getting a little break, knowing where I was going to be this year. It was great. I got to relax.”
Standing at 6-foot-10, is Ekpe Udoh the world’s tallest farmer?
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“Marc Gasol, I heard, does it in Spain,” he said. “But I’m right there, neck and neck.”
Udoh spent his summer traveling, training and, of course, reading. But this year, he also added a new interest: a hydroponic farm in a freight container in his hometown of Edmond, Oklahoma.
“I’m just out here trying to empower folks and do my part,” he said. “For me, it’s about affordability and accessibility. Everybody can’t go to the grocery store and purchase food at the price it is now.”
Coming off his most successful season in the NBA, Ingles was looking forward to a holiday in Fiji.
Life had other plans.
Renae Ingles has been one of the world’s top netball players for years, but she had recently retired so that she could live with her husband and their twins in Utah during the NBA season. Back home in Australia this summer, Renae decided to play one night in a recreational league. The team, as it turned out, had a full-time opening and Renae decided to give it a go.
“She played really well and made the Australian team again and signed to play another year,” Joe Ingles said.
So, as he spent much of the summer taking care of their young children, the Jazz forward gained a better appreciation for the sacrifices his wife makes during the season.
“I was a stay-at-home dad for the majority of the offseason,” he said. “Which was fun and very challenging. It’s really hard and it was a bit of a reality check. She has them all the time with our season, so you get a lot more respect and you feel her pain.”
After signing a new deal with the Jazz, Exum spent most of his summer in Los Angeles where he was a regular in the famed pick-up games at UCLA.
“It’s just an opportunity to be competitive in a fun environment,” he said. “Just to go against NBA guys, to be on different guys’ teams and just finding different ways to play and be creative.”
After spending much of last season rehabbing from injury, Exum said he feels 100 percent heading into this year.
“Health is the most important thing for me,” he said. “Just making sure I’m staying on top of everything to make sure I’m healthy. I just relaxed and made sure I was doing everything I could to be ready.”