Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — In her tender and sincere way, Jazz owner Gail Miller welcomed Devin Harris and Derrick Favors to Utah during a press conference following the team's prep session for tonight's game against the Boston Celtics.
"We're excited to have you here," Miller said. "And hope that you enjoy mingling with the community and with the team and with all of the management, and that you feel comfortable."
Turns out, mingling with the community was an interesting and fitting phrase.
As nice as Miller's comments were — and as warm as Jazz president Randy Rigby and general manager Kevin O'Connor were in their brief remarks — Harris' most memorable welcoming and mingling moment came on his first day in Utah.
"I was at the mall yesterday and people were jumping out of cars to come say hello," the veteran point guard said with a smile. "So I'm excited to be here."
Nobody has yet leaped out of a vehicle to meet Favors, but the 19-year-old rookie is equally thrilled about being traded to Utah from New Jersey.
"I'm just happy to be here, happy to be in an organization where I can fit in and hopefully stay for a while," the 6-foot-10 Favors said. "And like (Harris) said, be on a winning team, a winning organization and just improve every year."
Harris, who has replaced the traded Deron Williams as the Jazz's starting point guard, is looking forward to receiving the home-team treatment tonight against the Celtics in his first game at EnergySolutions Arena since joining his new squad last week.
"In the past, Utah was a place as a visitor you would not like to come," Harris said. "Obviously, the fans are very hard on the visiting team, but I'm excited especially for tonight. The fans have been very welcoming."
And some — as the 28-year-old explained about the mall incident in which a man chased him down after stopping his car in the middle of the street — have been more welcoming than others.
Ardent fan support isn't the only reason why the two new players are excited to come to this perennial playoff team.
"It's good to be back to a winning situation, a winning tradition," Harris said. "Obviously the Utah Jazz have been winning for decades and I'm just glad to be a part of that. Like I said, I'm looking forward to making a playoff push and getting back to the playoffs."
The Jazz have some work to do in regards to that. Currently, Utah (32-28) finds itself a half-game out of the final playoff spot behind Memphis (32-27).
O'Connor, who pulled the trigger on the most shocking trade in Jazz history by shipping away the face of the franchise last week, believes Harris and Favors can help get Utah over the hump and back into a postseason position.
"We really feel fortunate that we've got two players that are capable of helping us in this playoff stretch," O'Connor said.
And after doing extensive background checks — back to Wisconsin for native cheesehead Harris, and back to Atlanta and Georgia Tech for Favors — O'Connor believes the Jazz have two solid characters on the club, too.
"The people that they are, are terrific," O'Connor said. "And I think that they fit into our DNA and our culture and we're happy to have them on board."
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