As the first year head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, Taylor Jenkins was putting together an impressive campaign.
An assistant coach of the Milwaukee Bucks under Mike Budenholzer in 2018-19, Jenkins was snapped up by a Grizzlies franchise looking for a young, bright, coaching mind to take control of their developing roster.
Jenkins and the Grizzlies had become one of the surprise teams in the NBA, currently holding on to the eighth and final playoff seed in the Western Conference with a 32-33 record. Despite heading for an earlier-than-projected return to the postseason, Jenkins opened up a conference call with reporters by acknowledging the local heroes in the Memphis community during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I want to take the opportunity to thank so many people globally, but especially in our Memphis community. The first responders, the people that are on the front line every single day, 24-7 in our hospitals and urgent care centers," Jenkins said in an opening statement.
"Doctors, nurses, staff, everyone that is going out there trying to make a difference and trying to save lives. This thing is an unknown virus, rapidly changing, testing our will. It is up to our community to support our first responders and all of the people in the medical profession that are trying diligently and rapidly trying to find a cure and just give us hope."
𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚈𝚎𝚊𝚛 𝚘𝚏 𝟷𝟸 @jamorant #hustleXflow | #GrizzMo pic.twitter.com/m9KBWwTBeL- Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) April 6, 2020
With social distancing orders in place, Jenkins and the Grizzlies are leaning on technology to help them through the unprecedented scenario they currently face as a sporting organisation.
"Right now, obviously trying to get creative as much as possible for our players. Our coaching staff, we meet three times a week over the Zoom platform, which has been great."
"We get our players together once a week on Fridays, and just kind of reconnect and see how everyone is doing. We do some trivia games and try to keep it light-hearted with smiles and some playful banter back-and-forth as if the guys were in the locker room. That has been encouraging. Our assistant coaches are working, along with myself are working one-on-one with guys to engage virtually."
One of the biggest challenges for Jenkins and his staff is finding ways to keep their players in shape, with each athlete having a different set up at home.
"These guys are trying to stay in shape. Our performance team kind-of created their own plan for each guy and taking their every single day to engage them. Obviously, we want to echo to these guys that safety and health is the priority. They need to continue to practice social distancing, which is important."
Working out at home is one thing, but are his players actually able to get shots up?
"Obviously, when it comes to our team a lot of our guys live in apartments and condos so they do not have access to hoops and gyms and I think Justise [Winslow] may have even put out there on social media that he went out there and got a hoop ordered and got something installed."
"I know in conversations with guys, I think there is some exploration on their parts to see about getting basketball hoops just to have something - just to have an escape from being indoors or the alternative, obviously not being able to go to our own facilities or public facilities."
"There's a creativity that's having to be done. Not sure if anyone is putting any hoops on their doors like their bedroom doors, to work on their shooting skills. I know our guys have basketballs and are working on handling drills and what not to feel the ball. It's definitely unique. You wish you could say everyone had access even in these circumstances, but it is what it is."
As it currently stands, Memphis are just one win short of their 2018-19 total, and while potentially missing out on a chance to coach in his first NBA postseason if the season wasn't to resume, Jenkins can hardly contain his satisfaction for his team's performance in 2019-20.
"I would go beyond saying I am satisfied. I am so happy with the progress our team has made on a individual level. To see how the guys have grown, there individual games, there individual habits on and off the floor. From the team standpoint, creating and identity. Creating a competitive, unselfish, daily improving mentality. Those are our three core principles."
"I am very encouraged that we have laid this great foundation. Hopefully we do resume, whenever that is, and pick up where we left off and continue to build this. That is the faith I have in this group."
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