SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Jazz rookies Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Evans got new ink on their arms Monday morning.
They weren't, however, trying to act all NBA.
The young players simply got into a playful marker war while participating in the Jazz's annual preseason signing day. Every year, just before the season tips off, Jazz director of community relations Patti Balli and her crew fill one of the training facility gyms with thousands of items to be signed by the team.
Monday was that day, so players and coaches spent a good chunk of the morning prior to practice scribbling their signatures onto 600-plus balls, hundreds of photos, jerseys, books and other Jazz paraphernalia.
The autographed pieces — not counting the arms of Hayward and Evans — will be used as giveaways to fans and charities throughout the 2010-11 season.
Some coaches arrived as early as 6:30 a.m. to start signing before 10 a.m. practice. But autographapalooza took a couple of newcomers by surprise.
Hayward, sporting black marker smudges on his arm, almost felt like he was back in the NCAA Tournament spotlight with Butler.
"It's a little overwhelming, but that's all right," the 20-year-old said. "After we made the Final Four, we had to do something similar."
Hayward understands the significance of autographs, especially for kids. The Indiana native remembers waiting out in the cold to get his childhood hero's John Hancock (or Reggie Miller, to be more precise). His treasure remains at his parents' Indianapolis home.
"I collect basketball cards, so anytime you can get one with an autograph it was always something special," Hayward said. "I remember waiting in line to get Reggie Miller to sign one of my cards, so that was pretty cool."
Not only did Hayward return the favor for future fans Monday, but he also had to sign a ton of his own basketball cards at the NBA's Rookie Transition camp this past summer.
Evans' only experiences that remotely rivaled Monday's Sharpies-fest were midnight madness events at Western Kentucky.
"Man," he said with a smile while observing the orange Spalding sea, "it's going to take forever."
Evans, whose arm was marked up thanks to Hayward, also fondly recalls getting the piece de resistance in his limited autograph collection from his youth.
"I wanted Michael Jordan's," he said, "but I got Scottie Pippen's, so, yeah, I got pretty close."
The best part of his signing story was the where, not the who.
Evans approached Pippen while the ex-Bulls great was shopping at a Walmart in their home state of Arkansas. The Hall of Famer, Evans recalled, agreed to give an autograph while searching for "hardware stuff" at the big-box store.
"No, he didn't mind," Evans said, chuckling. "Because my family kind of knew him from when we were younger. He grew up 15 minutes away."
WORLD SERIES BOUND?: Sure, Deron Williams grew up as a Pittsburgh Steelers' fan in Dallas, but he did root for the local MLB club. So don't be stunned if he's among the Big D celebrities to attend a World Series game between his Texas Rangers and the San Francisco Giants.
The Jazz have next Monday off, and Williams just might make his way with fellow Dallasite C.J. Miles to watch a possible Game 5 at Rangers Stadium.
Honestly, Williams is still pinching himself that the Rangers made their first Fall Classic.
"Never thought this day would come, man," Williams said. "You talk about all the curses in baseball, they should have brought us up."
TALKIN' ABOUT TURKEY: News that Allen Iverson has reportedly agreed to play professionally in Turkey certainly caught the attention of the Jazz's resident Turkish star. Mehmet Okur believes Iverson's decision is good for the pro team, Besiktas, and for pro hoops in Turkey.
"It's a good honor for Turkish basketball," said the Yalova native, who is still sidelined while rehabbing from Achilles surgery. "I think it's great thing to bring A.I. into Turkey, then other teams can make a move, try to bring other NBA players."Comment on this story
Okur loves his homeland, but he doesn't plan on being one of those players.
"My goal," he said, "is just to retire playing NBA, play last game here and (be) done."