1. This was a lower-key scrimmage than most in the past.
This was probably the least important of the Jazz’s preseason open scrimmages in several years, for some really understandable reasons. First, the Jazz already ran a summer league open scrimmage for the first time, introducing fans to Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, and many training camp invitees. That scrimmage had a larger attendance than this one with a full roster, but the summer scrimmage had the advantage of novelty. Second, the Jazz have a home preseason game tomorrow: given the choice between the two, many fans1 probably preferred to watch a full game against another actual team, including former Weber State star Damian Lillard. Finally, coach Quin Snyder chose to stay out of both coaching huddles, leaving the coaching to assistant coaches Brad Jones and Mike Wells. As he put it, “It’s hard to feel too hard one way or the other about a 24-minute running clock scrimmage.”
Here are a few actual on-court impressions:
2. Furthermore, the rookie dance-off was a disappointment.
The rookie dance-off, probably the marquee annual event of the preseason scrimmage, was always destined to disappoint with the Jazz’s current rookie class. Dante Exum and Rodney Hood are two quiet guys who weren’t favored to have a great dance game. This postgame exchange put it best:
Dante Exum: “I knew Rodney was over there all shy, so I didn’t want to go full out.”
Trevor Allen2: “Do you have more than that to put out on the floor, or are you just saying that?”
Exum: “I’m just saying that. Definitely.”
The only chance at excitement came with Gordon Hayward’s invitation to have rookie head coach Quin Snyder dance, but unfortunately, Quin refused. Rats.
3. The night belonged to JP Gibson, 5-year-old honorary Jazz player.
The Jazz brought JP Gibson, a 5-year-old leukemia patient, onto the team through a program called “Anything Can Be”3. Stuff like this has done before, and honestly it’s rare today for a sporting event to not have a charitable cause associated with it. This is good.
What differentiated this one, though, was the execution by the entire Jazz organization, and they deserve massive credit for making JP’s day. First, they sent out an official press release to the entire league, letting everyone know about JP’s signing in the same way they notified the world about signing the real players. The phrase “Per team policy, financial terms were not released.” was even included for further realism. Then, the Jazz held a press conference to announce and complete the signing4, in the real interview room with the real backdrop and podium.
Once the event started, David Locke interviewed JP, just as he did every other player. JP danced (and won) in the dance-off. They allowed JP to stretch and warmup with the players, getting even more time with the players up-close. Then, as the scrimmage was about to end, JP substituted into the game. JP dribbled to the hoop, and dunked it in with the help of Rudy Gobert5.
It’s those details that made a nice gesture into an experience that was really meaningful for so many, bringing literal tears to many Jazz fans in attendance. Well done, everyone.