This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Despite the Jazz's recent relative success on the court, injury anxiety has gripped many fans, and for obvious reasons. When an emerging team misses four of five starters in a game, when it routinely misses key players players central to the Jazz's projected ascent to playoff qualification battle fatigue sets in, even for folks pounding pizza and nachos and hot dogs and popcorn during games, fighting off acid indigestion, washing it all down and away with a cold adult beverage.
How many sprained toes and busted fingers and sore ankles and tweaked hamstrings and knee-bone contusions are deeply caring patrons supposed to be able to take?
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey, who primarily assembled this group of players, says he knows how y'all feel. He's feeling it, too. He's more than feeling it. He's charting it, measuring it, evaluating it, reviewing it, searching for ways not just to heal what is bruised and broken, but to avoid, to the extent it is humanly possible, the bruising and breaking in the first place.
On the emotional aspect of seeing the core of his collection of players hampered, Lindsey says:
"Quin [Snyder] and I and [Jazz president] Steve Starks and ownership and our players are all human beings. There are times it's called life when you don't get what you want when you want it. How are you going to react? … When you have a period of trials and tribulations when things aren't going the way you want, you can woe-is-me and put your head down. It's our job to grind. We're grinding. We're trying to survive until we can thrive. We do think that will happen.
"We think we have the right players. We're surviving right now. If we were a little bit healthier, are we three or four games better? Yeah, but that doesn't matter. Everybody has injuries. It's our job to persevere. When things look dark and gloomy, you've got to fight your way out of it. I'm proud of the group we've put together. It's a good group. It has some untapped and unknown upside. We've just got to get healthy and see what that means."
Of the Jazz's training staff, he says:
"They are competitors, as well. … They have professional pride. They feel it, what we're going through. They're working hard. And scrambling and communicating and making sure we're up to date with the team and each particular player. That's a daily maintenance job, even the healthiest of players has something. We're asking ourselves what we can do better. We expect to do better in this area."
After a rough go last season, when the Jazz lost significant players to varying injuries, this time around, the team, once again, is near the top of the NBA in that dubious category. Some of that is due simply to bad fortune, but Lindsey says the Jazz are looking for ways to better avoid and treat injuries:
"Every area of the organization management, scouting, coaching, player procurement, players themselves, player development, athletic training, sports performance we are in annual review and constant review. I would hope what we went through last year in this area, we've learned from: How to communicate better, better protocols, better offseason preventative training, sports performance. We do have a young team. [We've] talked quite a bit about how our young group needs to get stronger to be more consistent. … I'm very comfortable with our review of that. But the proof's in the pudding. Certainly, we need to get healthy and perform."
In his role as GM, Lindsey says he and his staff, before drafting, signing or trading for a player, attempt not just to measure talent, but to gauge how prone that player is to injury, in addition to his level of drive and conscientiousness when he is injured:
"There's toughness, ability to play through fatigue and pain, those questions. You never really know. It's my opinion, you don't know somebody until you live with them, until you compete with them. That will tell you a lot about a person.
"When we have college players coming to us, some of that is unknown. You can interview and scout, but you never know how someone's going to react to the battle. That's not the case with any particular injury that we have, that we think a player is wimping out. Actually, it's the exact opposite. Usually, nine times of 10, you have to hold players back. There was a lot of internal communication relative to Gordon [Hayward]'s injury. It was centered on, 'We've got to make sure we protect him first.' He immediately wanted to play through a broken finger. And the medical opinion was that wasn't the wisest approach. … A lot of times we have to protect players from themselves."
As far as when the Jazz will have all, or even most, of their key players back on the floor, playing together, Lindsey says he flat does not know. Even with Hayward's finger, he says there were different opinions from different doctors on how soon he could or should play:
"I know this is causing a little angst because of the consecutive nature of the injuries. If we had a crystal ball and we knew when a player would be back, we would say so. [With] many of the injuries, the most honest answer is, 'We don't.' "
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on the Zone Sports Network, 97.5 FM and 1280 AM. Twitter: @GordonMonson.