As Utah Jazz arrive in Orlando, front office execs share their expectations for the team's restart

by Aaron Falk

ORLANDO — On Tuesday evening, the Utah Jazz stepped off their plane and onto a pair of Disney Cruise Line buses decorated with familiar cartoon characters pointing the team toward an entirely unfamiliar situation.

The NBA’s plan to restart this season inside the confines of the Disney World Resort and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is unprecedented, to be sure. And after Jazz general manager Justin Zanik fielded some questions from his players (“Some of the guys were asking where their Mickey Mouse ears were.”), he and Jazz executive Dennis Lindsey spent part of Wednesday answering questions about what exactly they expect when their team takes the court after a four-month layoff.

“The next three weeks are going to be really important in terms of developing the group bond again,” Zanik said during a video conference with reporters. “The good thing is it’s not a completely new team. These players have been together for six months. It’s more re-familiarizing than learning something new. I think that will happen quickly with the level of IQ our players have and the level at which [Jazz head coach Quin Snyder] demands they play.”

The Jazz (41-23 and sitting in fourth place in the West) are currently in a 48-hour quarantine after arriving in Florida. After a pair of Covid-19 tests, the team is expected to practice together Thursday for the first time since March.

But after watching players in individual and small-group workouts in recent days, Lindsey is confident his squad will be ready to play.

“I can be tough in my critiques internally,” said Lindsey, the team’s executive vice president of basketball operations. “Watching our coaches, our health performance people, our nutrition, as well as our players perform during the hiatus … I am in awe of how much work we put in. Our players are in terrific shape. They’re very excited to compete. So I think we’ll be formidable because we have a hungry group.”

As part of the University of Utah Health Road to Orlando, the Jazz are scheduled to have three scrimmages before regular season play resumes:

• July 23 vs. Phoenix (8 p.m. ET)

• July 25 vs. Miami (4 p.m. ET)

• July 27 vs. Brooklyn (5:30 p.m. ET)

The team’s first regular-season matchup is slated for July 30 against the New Orleans Pelicans. The Jazz will play eight "seeding games" in all before the playoffs begin Aug. 17.

“By the time the playoffs start, you’re talking about five weeks together,” Zanik said. “I think that will approximate” a full training camp.

Lindsey cited player and staff safety and the ability for the team to continue to advocate for social justice as his top priorities for a successful return to play.

“I think all of us recognize where competition fits into the scheme of things,” he said. “But we’re paid to do our jobs and do them well. … It’s important for us to go and compete and compete great. If we do that, we can certainly live with the results.

“I don’t have a win total on the eight seeding games. All of that will depend on matchups and health and rhythm because home court is out the window. But make no mistake, we want to go to Orlando and compete and be great.”

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