Mike Terry, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY —
But the Jazz did get an Undertaker.
The most anticipated draft in Jazz history ended early Thursday in a mixture of cheers and boos at the team's selection party at EnergySolutions Arena. But unlike the years when fans booed Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor for his picks, this time it was more complicated.
The commotion came even before the Jazz made their second pick of the night. When Sacramento acquired BYU's Jimmer Fredette at No. 10, you could see the dollars — all those replica jerseys — flying west. Two picks later the Jazz took Alec Burks from Colorado. Before that, the Jazz had selected 6-foot-11 inch center Enes Kanter from Turkey at No. 3. Yes, they already have one of those. As countryman Mehmet Okur would say, he's not in Istanbul any more.
"First of all, I felt great because it's the Utah Jazz," said Kanter. "I have family there. Like Mehmet Okur plays there, too, so it's kind of like my family."
In a "we-once-lived-in-the-same-area-code" sort of way. Though they have never met, Kanter did say he used to arise in the week hours of the morning to watch Okur on TV.
So the Jazz have now cornered the market on 7-foot Turks.
Meanwhile, you had to wonder if O'Connor sighed with relief or disappointment when the Kings grabbed Fredette.
"I'm gonna make one statement and I won't say another thing about it. And if you ask me, I'm gonna get grouchy on it," O'Connor said of Fredette. "We had him in our top 10 on our board. But it's something we feel would be taking away from Kanter and Alec Burks."
For weeks the story was whether the Jazz would draft Fredette, combined with expected speculation on the third pick. That put O'Connor in the position of worrying as much about his second draftee as his first.
"It was very anxious," said O'Connor.
Enough so that when describing the mood in the team's draft room on Thursday, he joked, "Arguments. Nobody likes each other. We've been together for like 16 days."
In Kanter the Jazz got an energetic, coordinated big man, but one of the mysteries of the draft. That's because his resume is onionskin thin. Outside of a handful of pro games in Europe, he's still just a plan. The Jazz liked that even though he sat out his only season at Kentucky last year due to an eligibility issue, he maintained under six percent body fat.
Truth is, big men are still the rarest commodity. In spite of his inexperience, they like the fact he is a strong rebounder and apparently a relentless worker. He's also somewhat of a character. He says he wants to be a pro wrestler after his basketball career. His favorite star: The Undertaker.
Shortly after being picked he notified fans "the Undertaker is coming."
The night began with anticipation at high pitch. The crowd filled the lower bowl and stretched into the upper bowl as well. Whether the Jazz realistically had a chance for Fredette to slip to No. 12 is debatable. O'Connor said his team had some "offers on the table" and made some, but nothing materialized. Asked if he was certain Fredette would go in the first 10, thus saving the Jazz a decision, O'Connor said, "We didn't know that."
What else they didn't know was what their fans were thinking. Whenever Fredette appeared on the JumboTron screens, the crowd started up, half booing (presumably Utah fans) and half cheering (BYU fans).
When team president Randy Rigby took the podium to announce the Jazz would choose Kanter with their first pick, he termed it a "memorable and monumental draft" for the Jazz.
A draft in which the most memorable and monumental call of all was made by someone else.
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