I’m really proud of what I accomplished this season. I put a great deal of hard work into my game last offseason, and to see that pay off and play the way I did this year, it was really rewarding.
But the part that might be even more rewarding is the fact that I feel as if I still have a lot of improvement to do, and a long way to go before I reach my ceiling. To put in a bunch of work, and get results, but at the same time feel like I can do better than this, makes me want to work even harder in this next offseason, and it gives me a bunch of confidence.
There were a lot of different things I worked on, but one thing I put a real emphasis on was finishing plays around the basket. I picked up a floater this year, which is something that was pretty much non-existent in my game the previous year. I had that in mind going into the offseason, and I worked on that a bunch from the start of my training all the way into the season, and throughout year with the coaches and the player development staff.
Being able to finish more plays around the rim allowed me to finish games a lot better than I had in previous years as well. I made big strides in the way I closed games, and the beautiful part about it is, there’s still a long way to go in both of those areas. I want to become a closer at the end of games.
Improving on things like that — working on a floater, finishing at the rim and finishing games — is not the easiest thing to practice individually, but you just have to remain focused and imagine it. You have to envision being in a game and try to go at game speed in the offseason. You can’t attack your offseason training lackadaisically or at half-speed, because you won’t get anything out of it. You have to put everything you would put into a game into those workouts.
For me, it helped because I’d watch a bunch of film and break down exactly what I needed to do. If you watch film, you see where you can improve. I noticed where and how I could shoot floaters better—whether I was shooting it with no arc, or too much arc, or off I could put it off the glass, things like that. Once you see those things in action, then you can envision it in your mind when you’re going through a drill. It’s good when you can work on something, and watch it on film to actually see the results. Then when you go in the game, you really see the game slow down and it allows you to actually do the things that you practiced.
As I’ve mentioned in previous entries, Coach Snyder is a big proponent of film. I can say pretty confidently that we watched more film than any team in the league, and it helped us out to a great extent. Individually, we were all better at the end of the season. Collectively, we were better as well. Film can’t lie. It holds people accountable. People can’t make excuses when you’re watching film. It’s right there in front of you.
One of the big things we picked up on by watching film as a team was just learning the importance of trust in one another. When we saw film of teammates coming from the help side, the ball movement, making the extra pass, and what those things do for the success of your team, it showed us what can happen when you learn to trust your teammates more.
BALANCING THE LONG AND SHORT TERM
I take a lot of pride in putting as much as I have to give into the game of basketball and being out there with my teammates every night. So when I had to miss a few games at the end of the season with various parts of my body acting up, it was extremely tough for me.
What made it so hard was that I knew if I had to play and it was a playoff game or a playoff spot was on the line, I could have played. And because I knew I could have played, I wanted to play. I don’t want to miss any games. But it’s one of those things where you have to take a look at the big picture. We knew we weren’t in the playoffs and so the front office and the coaching staff wanted me to take it easy.
They pulled me aside with a few games left in the season, and talked to me about going into the offseason as healthy as possible. They wanted me to avoid an injury that required rehab. The goal was for me to be able to go straight from the season into recovery mode for a little bit and then jump right into training. The way they handled it, coming to me and explaining their thinking, was really great. It was important to me because the last thing I wanted was for the front office, the coaches, the staff, my teammates or the fans to think I was sitting out because I didn’t want to play, or I didn’t want to work. The way it was handled, I think everyone knew that wasn’t the case with me.
So while it was definitely difficult to sit and watch, by the end, it was something that I understood, and I was happy that they were taking the smart approach with my health.
But one thing the way my body felt at the end of the season taught me is that I still have some work to do in terms taking care of myself physically. That’s something that you learn to do as you get older, and gain more experience. You learn how your body works, what you can and can’t do and what you need to do during the season to keep your body active and healthy.
That’s actually one of the things we talked about in the exit meetings. We evaluated how I did with that, and what I can do better. They told me that I was up there among the players with most miles traveled in the NBA this season. I thought it was kind of cool that they can actually track that.
The Jazz expect a lot of me as a player, and it’s up to me to make sure that I can continue to perform at the highest level. That means making sure that my body is in tip-top shape.
PLENTY TO BUILD ON
Even in those games I was out, it was very encouraging to see the guys go out and perform the way that they did. It was fun to see them play well. It makes me that much more excited for next year.
Rodney Hood was one of those guys that stepped up late in the season. In the beginning of the year, he had some unfortunate injuries and was banged up, but he showed what he’s capable of down the stretch. Rodney has a great feel for the game and a natural ability to not only score, but to be in the right place at the right time. He stays on balance and his body is built to play the game. He’s also great with the ball in his hands and can be a playmaker not only for himself but for his teammates. He played extremely well for us at the end of the year, and he can be a guy that can handle the ball and take the pressure off of me. He’s going to be a great player in this league.
One guy who was kind of unsung this year was Trevor Booker. He played really, really well for us. From my view, he was one of the most important guys we had — not just for the great things he did on the court, but the things he did off the court as well. He was the glue guy for us. He kept the team together. The other thing that struck me was his improved shooting. He had one career three-pointer made before this season, but he became a threat from the three-point line. That’s a testament not only to his work ethic and his constant self-improvement, but to the coaching staff as well.
I can’t say enough about the coaches on this team, and what they meant to our success. Coach Snyder is a tremendous coach. You could argue that he should have been in the running for the Coach of the Year with the turnaround that we had as a franchise, and the improvement that all of our individual players made.
We have a really good relationship, one of mutual respect, but also trust. I think that started last summer when he sat down with my wife and I in Chicago. I was training there with Team USA and he came to visit with me at practice, then had dinner with us and just built that trust right from the get-go. That’s huge to be able to trust your coach and for him to trust me as a player. I think that’s a big deal.
How far we came in one season is a credit to him and his staff. They put us through a lot of film, a lot of workouts, and he brought a little bit of a change to Utah with the new things that he did. He’s a genius defensively. I think that shows with the numbers for us. He’s very detailed, very inspiring and passionate. I love that about him. I’m looking forward to playing for him for a long time.
I’m very happy with where we stand as a franchise and the guys we have on our team. We have a bunch of players who are hungry to get better and to win. That’s something that you can’t teach.
SEVEN MONTHS AND COUNTING…
I’ll certainly be putting in a lot of work this offseason to continue to get better in all areas as a basketball player. But there’s something else that will occupying my time as well.
It’s starting to get down to crunch time here, with the baby due in less than two months. It’s really exciting.
Robyn is doing well, and for the most part the pregnancy has been good. She’s starting to show a little bit more, and you can really feel the baby in her belly, especially when it kicks. It’s a pretty strange feeling to experience for the first time. It made me immediately think of the movie “Alien,” because I’m a nerd. Unfortunately, Robyn’s at the stage where she’s uncomfortable, and can’t really sleep because the baby is a lot bigger. She just can’t find a spot that she likes to sleep in.
Because of my schedule and travel, it has been pretty difficult to be with her and do all the things that go along with getting ready for a baby. I’ve had to miss some doctor appointments, and I haven’t been around as she picked out everything. She definitely has asked me my opinion on things, so I’ve told her what I was thinking, and then she’s pretty much disregarded me completely, like most wives probably do. But her mom has been in town a lot to help out, and they’ve had a good time going to baby stores and getting the highchair, the rocking chair, that kind of thing.
But I am definitely looking forward to having some time off, and really getting a chance to spend some time with her. She’s going to start having doctor appointments every two weeks, and I’m going to be right there with her every step of the way the next two months. We’re excited and getting ready to begin this next chapter of our lives.
Up until this last week or so, I really haven’t thought about what’s about to happen. I’ve been so busy and involved in basketball that I haven’t had a chance to sit down and think about how our lives are about to change. But I think now that I have more time, it will probably become more real — especially at the end of this month when we head back to Indiana. That’s where we’re going to set up, and where she’s going to have baby with both our families there. That’s probably when it will hit me that this is actually about to happen, and I’m about to be a father.
I have talked to some people about it, and I have to admit, I’ve received some wide-ranging messages. Most people have mentioned that I need to get as much sleep as I can now, because when the baby comes, I won’t be getting any. I’ve also had some people tell me after I tell them that the baby is due in June, “Oh, well that’s the end of your life, after June.”
But most everyone has said that it’s the best thing that’ll ever happen to you, and that when you hold the baby in your arms for the first time, there’s just a feeling that’s hard to describe with words. I’m really looking forward to that feeling.