Utah Jazz: For Christmas, Snyder hopes people appreciate what his short-handed team has done so far

Utah Jazz: For Christmas, Snyder hopes people appreciate what his short-handed team has done so far

SALT LAKE CITY — It’d be completely understandable if Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder was to say, “All I want for Christmas is a healthy basketball team.”

After all, the Jazz have managed to put together a respectable 18-13 record thus far despite the fact that key players like George Hill, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Boris Diaw, Rodney Hood and Alec Burks have each missed anywhere from five to 30 games with various injuries or illness.

In all, Utah’s players have missed a combined 90 games thus far, and Burks has yet to play this season.

But while Snyder would certainly love to have all of his guys available and close to 100 percent someday — though it truly seems that day might never come for this team — the Jazz coach’s Christmas wish this weekend seemed to be one centered not around what his short-handed team doesn’t have or hasn’t done, but rather an appreciation for what they’ve been able to accomplish despite never having a full complement of players.

“We’ve just gotta keep grinding and we’ve gotta be realistic with this group of players that we don’t beat them up for things that are almost virtually impossible for them to do,” Snyder said, pointing out that Hayward and Rudy Gobert have played incredibly well and guys like Joe Ingles and Joe Johnson are continually being called upon to play big minutes and produce, even though that wasn’t originally the role that was designed for them on this team.

Coach Snyder pointed out that Hayward’s performance has been extraordinary when you consider that he often hasn’t had the help of Hill, Favors, Hood and others on the court with him.

“Gordon’s been unbelievable,” Snyder said. “… Let’s figure out what we’re having to do without all the players we have and evaluate the guys that we have based on that, because from what I can tell, Gordon Hayward’s not only having a great year, but he’s dealing with some psychological challenges when you don’t have a lot of help.

“If you’ve ever been in a situation in your life where you’re like, it’s really hard, and there’s no way you can actually lift 400 pounds, and someone says ‘Oh, you can’t lift 400 pounds, you’re not strong.’ He’s got a Volkswagen and he’s trying to lift it, and there’s no one on the other side. He’s doing great, and same with Rudy. Those guys have been terrific — I can’t emphasize that enough.”

Asked if he could actually allow himself sit back, relax and enjoy Christmas Day during the grind of the NBA’s 82-game schedule, Snyder said, “Yeah, I’m gonna go look up the chimney and see if Santa’s coming down and ask for some more cookies and some milk.

“Naw, we’re good, we’re good.”

What he really wanted to emphasize was how well his team has played despite having so many key members of their lineup sidelined. He appreciates their determined performance, and he wants the public to appreciate it, too.

“At some point, you’ve gotta defend our players for what they’re doing,” Snyder said. “For this team to be (18-13) right now is remarkable. I mean, seriously, with the injuries that we’ve dealt with, and it’s not just numbers, it’s the people that have been out. Take a starting backcourt (Hill and Hood) away from another team in the league, go ahead, and try to figure out whether that team, how good they are.

“With our players, it’s nothing I’m doing. It’s just guys that are playing with a lot of grit, and I appreciate that. I want them to know what they’re doing is appreciated. When Rudy steps to the line and makes one of two, I mean, last year there were times people were hacking Rudy at the end of the game. Rudy’s just been a monster, a monster, and people are worried about whether Rudy handles questions right, whether he’s being too forward and all that. Part of me feels like Rudy can say whatever he wants and then some, and I’ll just say, ‘Rudy’s right’ because he’s playing so hard and so well

“I’ve just got a ton of respect for our team and where we are right now,” he said. “… So they’ve just gotta keep grinding, I’ve gotta keep grinding, we’ve all gotta keep grinding, and you (media) guys have gotta know what a special job these guys are doing. They’re working their tails off. (GM) Dennis Lindsey and I talk about it all the time. … No one’s feeling sorry for themselves, but we all have to be appreciative and realistic about what these guys are doing with what they have — that’s Christmas.”

Snyder said the Jazz sorely miss Hill’s on-court leadership and are eager for his return. Until then, they’ll have to make-do by juggling makeshift lineups, depending on who’s available to play. He’s grateful for everybody on Utah’s roster and the contributions each of them have made toward the team’s success.

“I like my team, I like my team, guys that are healthy or not,” he said. “I mean, look at Alec Burks, look at George Hill, those guys are working their tails off to get back, working hard, hard, hard.

“Alec’s been out a year. Do you know what it’s like to not be able to do what you love to do for a year? And to have to work through all these challenges, to work through a surgery, and have someone having you run over cones (out on the court)? He wants to quit,” he laughed.

“So Merry Christmas, huh? Merry, merry and happy holidays,” Snyder said.

While most of their coach’s time is spent stressing about his players’ health, shifting lineups and formulating game plans, Hayward and Ingles are looking forward to having a relaxing Christmas Day off and spending it with their families.

Hayward, whose wife Robyn gave birth to their second child in the summer, said it’s nice to have a day to get away from the daily grind of NBA basketball.

“Any time you have off, I mean, my wife put up the tree and stockings and the whole deal, so it still feels like Christmas to me,” he said. “We’re not playing on Christmas — I think it’d be a little different if we were, but we’re not — so it’ll still feel like Christmas.

“I’ve been trying to say don’t buy anything (for their two young daughters, who are both under the age of two). All the family buys them all kinds of gifts, so we don’t need to buy them anything.”

Ingles, whose wife Renae gave birth to twins in July, wasn’t doing much Christmas shopping for his kids, either, as he looked forward to spending the holiday with family members.

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“They won’t probably be doing too much,” he said of the twins. “They’re five months (old) on Christmas Day. So actually, just saying, we didn’t really buy ’em anything, which is pretty disappointing, but they won’t remember.

“We’ve got all my family’s here, all my wife’s family’s here, so we’ve got a nice day waiting for them on Christmas, which is nice. It’s the first one for Renae’s parents as grandparents and my parents. To have all the kids and their grandkids together in one house, it’ll be fun.

“It’s nice to get away for that day and try to forget about basketball for a day and have that day with family and friends,” Ingles said, “and obviously switch back pretty quickly the next day to get back into it (the Jazz play the Lakers on Tuesday in Los Angeles). But it’s nice to switch off for a day and worry about something other than basketball.

Asked if he might be carving the holiday turkey and ham, Ingles said: “That’s what the parents are over for, they’ll be doing all the cooking. Me, Renae and my sister will be sitting on the sofa.”

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Published at Sat, 24 Dec 2016 22:30:00 +0000