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Brad Rock: Jazz's 'Junkyard Dog' DeMarre Carroll getting the job done

Published: Friday, April 20 2012 8:29 p.m. MDT

Related article: Replay of the live chat with beat writer Jody Genessy

SALT LAKE CITY — Thursday was a good day, DeMarre Carroll was saying. He had worked out, then gone shopping for essentials. Next came a trip to the spa, where he ordered the works: manicure, pedicure, massage.

Basketball isn't entirely about sweating and moving heavy objects.

"Good place to go," he said on Friday. "Hopefully, I'll go back."

So the word is out: Even tough guys need a little "me time."

Carroll, who recently had teeth realigned and his bell rung during games, was back at practice on Friday, ready to roll. Which stands to reason. This is a guy who two months ago was waived by the Denver Nuggets. After spending parts of three seasons in the NBA, with four different teams, he is fitting nicely with the Jazz as they make their playoff push.

Thanks to a flurry of injuries, he's even been starting the last six games, having gone from waiver woes to starting sublimity.

"I do pinch myself at times," he said.

He might even pinch an opposing player if it meant gaining possession.

Carroll wound up in Utah through a rather circuitous route. During the offseason, Jazz G.M. Kevin O'Connor told Carroll he liked his game. Small wonder. Carroll is to basketball what barbecued ribs are to food: nothing fancy, but highly addictive. But the Jazz had an even bigger need than a player unafraid of doing the garbage work. They wanted a scorer, and thus went with Josh Howard.

Still, when Carroll was released by the Nuggets in February, the Jazz took him on. Wise move. Shortly thereafter, players started dropping due to injuries. By the time the damage had peaked, Carroll was starting.

If he needed a reason to love playing in Salt Lake — which he didn't, considering he was temporarily out of work — Carroll got one after last Friday's game against Dallas. He began getting messages on Twitter, complimenting him on his rebounding. That indicated two things. First, he's doing some things right. Second, Jazz fans love to talk dirty, so to speak. Not dirty words. Rather, talking about doing the dirty work.

They enjoy the way he dives for loose balls, forces turnovers and takes charges. O'Connor can add other things to the list, such as moving without the ball, popping out for occasional jumpers and guarding bigger small forwards.

His toughness was known to the Jazz long ago. That was borne out when Carroll took an elbow in the April 14 game against Memphis, causing a slight concussion. He had to have one tooth repositioned at halftime, yet played in the third quarter until headaches sent him to the bench. Still, he was ready for the Dallas game two days later.

On Wednesday against Portland, he cracked heads with teammate Derrick Favors in the fourth quarter, but appeared no worse for wear at practice on Friday.

In his world, basketball isn't fun until someone hits you in the mouth.

"A lot of these fans around here, they love guys who play hard-nosed like me," Carroll said. "I got a lot of tweets after the Dallas game just for getting my offensive rebounds and it's funny because a lot of people don't pay attention (to that). They pay attention to people scoring, but Jazz fans pay attention to little stuff.

"That's what keeps me happy every day when I walk in the gym. I know I've got fans that are going to love me and the things I do, not just traditional fans who want the ball in hoop, but fans who love everything. These fans know basketball."

Carroll's trip from the fringes to success didn't occur seamlessly. A former Vanderbilt and Missouri star, he was drafted 27th overall in 2009. He made two stops in Memphis, one in Houston, and played in four games with Denver this year. Nicknamed the "Junkyard Dog" in college, he apparently started trying to go upscale with his game.

As Jazz G.M. Kevin O'Connor put it, Carroll briefly "got away" from what made him valuable, i.e. doing the little things.

Now he's back, playing with traditional abandon, slipping outside for unexpected baskets, inside to strip away the ball from opponents. Two days after Memphis' Tony Allen rattled his ivories with his elbow, Carroll played a career-high 45 minutes in a triple-overtime win over Dallas. He had 15 points, six assists and four rebounds. In the last seven games he has averaged 23 minutes, scoring in double figures three times, adding one seven-rebound night and one six-assist game.

While O'Connor says "it depends on which game" as to whether Carroll has exceeded expectations, the Jazz forward isn't backing off.

"I'm just so happy and excited, especially because I'm a guy who has been outside the league and now we're in a playoff race," he said. "It can't get better than that."

Not even by adding the exfoliating peel and salt glow.

Related article: Replay of the live chat with beat writer Jody Genessy

email: rock@desnews.com

Twitter: therockmonster

Facebook: rockmonsterunplugged

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