Utah Jazz take flight with scrimmage at Hill Air Force Base

Saturday , September 30, 2017 - 5:00 AM

BRANDON GARSIDE, Standard-Examiner Staff

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — In recent years, the Utah Jazz have hosted an open scrimmage for the public as the NBA season approaches.

The team continued the tradition with this year’s scrimmage Friday afternoon, but the location was unique — the Jazz put on the exhibition at the Warrior Fitness Center on Hill Air Force Base, and the crowd consisted of a few hundred airmen, their families and other military personnel.

“This is such a great day and great event for our families, for our airmen and our soldiers that also serve here at Hill Air Force Base,” Col. Jennifer Hammerstedt said before the scrimmage. “The opportunity to have the team come here and play on our court here at Hill Air Force Base is just awesome. We thank them and we’ll be cheering them on the court this year. We hope they have a great season.”

For Jazz head coach Quin Snyder, the event was more than business as usual in evaluating and preparing his team for the upcoming season. It was an opportunity to recognize the people who are willing to put their lives on the line for the security and liberty of the country.

“I think you can’t articulate the respect, admiration and appreciation that we have for the service men and women and what they do on a daily basis for us,” Snyder said. “We’ve discussed the sacrifices the people here on this base make for us. The sacrifice their families make, which is the ultimate sacrifice. It’s a special day.”

Jazz swingman Joe Johnson, who has an uncle who served in the military, not only enjoyed playing on base in front of the service men and women, but also saw a familiar face.

“It was awesome to get a chance to come out here and sign some autographs, take some pictures and hang out,” Johnson said. “I even saw a guy here from Little Rock, where I’m from, and I knew him, too. It was fun. We had a great time, a great scrimmage so I hope they enjoyed it.”

The event also marked the first time anyone outside the Jazz organization saw the team’s newcomers play with their new teammates. While it was only a scrimmage against themselves, there was promise.

It’s no secret that the court vision of point guard Ricky Rubio is well above average, but that means more than a well-timed no-look pass. Snyder said having a gifted passer like Rubio translates into other players sharing the rock and wanting to be in the right place at the right time to be on the receiving end of a pass.

It also has accelerated the pace of play, which a year ago, by design, was the slowest in the league.

“I think we already had that unselfishness to us, but he just brings another dimension to it and it just gets contagious,” Johnson said of Rubio. “We were getting up and down. Guys were getting off the glass then pushing up the court, plus Ricky is such a unselfish point guard. He’s always looking ahead and passing the ball up, so it’s going to make the game a lot faster.”

Rookie guard Donovan Mitchell also impressed in the scrimmage with aggressiveness on both ends of the floor, and while Snyder is pleased with what he’s seen, he acknowledged that playing against his own team is not the same as playing in the regular season.

“I think Donovan has been a scorer and has a scorer’s mentality. I thought his decision making was good tonight. He was a willing passer,” Snyder said. “We’ve seen his vision, because he’s done it in the summer, but when the game gets going in an NBA game with more NBA players on the floor, it’s a little different.”

The Jazz will open their preseason schedule at 7 p.m. Monday hosting the Sydney Kings at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

Contact sports reporter Brandon Garside at bgarside@standard.net, on Twitter @BrandonGarside and on Facebook.com/BrandonGarsideSE.

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