ORLANDO (ABC4 Sports) – It has been exactly 20 weeks since the Utah Jazz game against Oklahoma City was cancelled, starting a ripple affect that spread throughout the sports world.
So it is only appropriate that the Jazz re-start the NBA season Thursday night against New Orleans inside the NBA bubble in Orlando.
“When you sit back and think about it, it’s only right that we start it off,” said Jazz all-star guard Donovan Mitchell. “I think it’s a big moment for sure to go out there and hoop, to show that we’re over all the things that have happened, and just go out there and be ready to play.”
“A lot of things happened, not just for us, but for every single person on this planet,” said all-star center Rudy Gobert, who was the first NBA player to test positive for COVID-19. “Now, the NBA put something together so we can go back and play in a safe environment. So we’re all very excited to be back on the court at the highest level.”
The Jazz have already clinched a playoff spot, so they’re going to use these eight seeding games to figure out how to win without Bojan Bogdanovic, and TO get in the best position possible for the playoffs.
“Even though we’re referring to these as seeding games, I think the key word is games,” head coach Quin Snyder said. “Particularly for a team like ours that has lost a key player, there is an adjustment period. Part of preparing for the playoffs, even more than seeding, is just competing. You want to be playing your best basketball when you do go into the playoffs.”
Mitchell said the Jazz cannot afford to treat these games like it is the beginning of a new season, when mistakes are a little more forgivable.
“That early season vibe would allow us to gradually jump into things, I think we don’t have time for that,” Mitchell said. “If you start of slow, you could fall many spots. So we want to continue to stay where we’re at, if not improve to be higher.”
There are reports the Jazz and Pelicans will both kneel together during the National Anthem to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Mitchell didn’t want to reveal specifics on Wednesday, but he is looking forward to making his voice heard when it comes to matters of racial justice.
“For us to be African-Americans on this platform that we have, to be able to speak for people who don’t have voices, it’s truly going to be monumental,” Mitchell said. “To be on the front lines of this, to be the first game, when I become old and I retire, I want my kids and my grandkids, everybody in my family to know this is what I stood for.”
The Jazz and Pelicans will tip-off the NBA restart Thursday at 4:30 p.m. mountain time.