LAS VEGAS — During one of the Utah Jazz Summer League games last week, the row behind the home team’s bench filled up with a bunch of familiar faces and really long legs.
For much of the final game, Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks, Trevor Booker, Joe Ingles, Elijah Millsap and Raul Neto sat behind the Summer Jazz squad.
Guys in Jazz uniforms at that time got some welcomed support from the experienced athletes.
Fans in the stands got one more thing to get excited about.
And Utah's NBA players got a chance to catch up with each other and continue to solidify an already strong bond.
“I think everybody can see how close they are, ” Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said. “And they tangibly feel that, the chemistry amongst the group. They like being around each other.”
The scenario is one that warms the hearts of Jazz management, which has tried to help convince players to work with their team trainers and coaches and to stick around town as much as possible in the offseason.
Utah has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve the Zions Bank Basketball Center facility and to bolster the player development staff to make it worth the players’ while, too.
While participation in Utah is encouraged, it’s not required — but just about every player on the team has taken advantage of it.
“They’ve improved a lot of stuff. They’re making it real home like, ” Favors said. “Guys want to come out to Utah, (train) in the practice facility and work with the coaches and enjoy what Salt Lake’s got.”
That team training and togetherness has extended to Santa Barbara (for workouts at the P3 performance lab) and to this week in Las Vegas for the Jazz’s summer league away from home.
Lindsey credited the Miller family for ponying up the travel money for players and staff to participate in extra out-of-state opportunities.
Gobert left Utah to go home to France to train with his national team ahead of the EuroBasket 2015 tournament and Gordon Hayward remains on diaper duty with his newborn in Indiana, but every other player on the roster has traveled to Las Vegas at some point in the past week.
(Newly signed German center Tibor Pleiss is a Las Vegas exception, but he recently worked out in Utah before returning home to work out with his national team.)
One Jazz veteran joked that the Las Vegas trip is like a paid vacation.
Lindsey quipped that’s “like herding cats where you’re trying to match everybody’s schedule.” Rodney Hood, Dante Exum and Trey Lyles are all part of the summer league squad, but arranging most of the other players to get in together was a challenge.
Trey Burke, who had a camp in Ohio during the Jazz's summer league, even helped the NBA put on a clinic for employees this week.
And the Jazz players and personnel all agree that these offseason group sessions (which include anywhere from three to seven Jazz veterans) are great for camaraderie, which can pay off in the locker room and on the court during the season.
“It’s something we all came up with, ” Favors said, “just to come down to Vegas for a couple of days, get a couple of workouts in, watch the summer league team play and work out, try to build chemistry.”
While in Las Vegas, players are lifting weights, watching some film, doing individual workouts, talking with coaches and, as Favors put it, just “enjoying ourselves.”