Utah Jazz basketball: Rookie dance off at scrimmage event, Enes Kanter sizzles
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Gordon Hayward played aggressively and hit outside shots, giving fans at Saturday's Utah Jazz scrimmage hope that this could be a big year for the third-year pro.
Derrick Favors looked strong. DeMarre Carroll dove over the bench for a loose ball. Darnell Jackson bumped guys around with his mass like it meant something. Even the new papa — rookie Kevin Murphy— made a splash, continuing his good week by hitting five 3-pointers, including a deep, shot-clock-beating banker.
But enough about basketball.
Enes Kanter, who's rising to Jazz fan favorite status on the same trajectory One Direction is taking over the pop world, provided the estimated 6,200 fans with the most memorable moment — during the Rookie Dance Off portion of the event.
The Jazz's class-clown-in-the-making first stole the show when he swiped the microphone from radio broadcaster David Locke and caused a crowd frenzy during the elongated player introductions.
Then came his dancing debut.
Some of the Turkish player's moves were inexplicable — probably unrepeatable, too. But somewhere in between bouncing around and doing an Eminem 8-Mile impersonation, Kanter did the unthinkable.
The 6-foot-11 center, taking advantage of his 51-pound offseason weight loss and more agile body, dropped to the floor and did the worm.
EnergySolutions Arena exploded with shock and awe.
"It's an embarrassing moment, but he did a good job," said Hayward, who had to dance as a rookie along with Jeremy Evans two years ago. "He shouldn't have to dance this year, but he acted like he didn't dance last year, and then he comes out and does this. I don't know where that was at."
Fans ate it up. But Kanter, who later played well in the scrimmage, received mixed reviews from his team.
"For a big guy, he did a pretty good job on it," said Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin, who's been impressed with how Kanter's improved body has helped his quickness, explosiveness and, apparently, his dancing. "You don't see a big man doing the worm."
Derrick Favors still isn't sure that's what he saw.
"Terrible, terrible," Favors said, mocking Kanter. "It was the worst worm I've ever seen."
To Kanter's defense, he didn't even know what the old break-dancing move was until early in the day when veteran teammates Jamaal Tinsley and Mo Williams convinced the 20-year-old that he had to do it in front of fans.
Tinsley and Williams even pulled up a YouTube video to show Kanter how to properly execute a worm.
"That was the first time I danced. I try," Kanter said, smiling. "I think it was great. It was so much fun."
Other scrimmage observations:
Corbin liked the way his players showed effort, physicality and how they executed the offense during the 24-minute scrimmage, but he said the jelling team needs to make communication adjustments.
Expected starters Al Jefferson and Mo Williams were held out of the action for precautionary purposes after getting "a little banged up" in the morning practice, Corbin said. The unspecified injuries are minor, and both could practice today and might be able to play in Monday's exhibition opener at Golden State.
Paul Millsap, who received the biggest pregame cheers, only played briefly in the first half and had ice wrapped on his knees by the time the game ended and players threw mini-basketballs into the crowd. Earl Watson (knee) didn't play.
Hayward led all scorers with 21 points as his White squad defeated the Blue team, 62-58. The White squad: Alec Burks, Brian Butch, DeMarre Carroll, Favors, Hayward, Kanter, Chris Quinn. Blue: Jeremy Evans, Randy Foye, Trey Gilder, Jackson, Jefferson, Millsap, Murphy, Tinsley, Marvin Williams.
Murphy scored 18 points only two days after joining the camp in progress. He missed the first four practices to fly home to Atlanta to be with his wife for the birth of their first child.
"I feel like I'm learning the offense better and better every day. I think I'm doing it pretty well," the second-round pick said. "Summer camp helped a lot. … It's all coming back to me. I'm getting the hang of it."
Added Corbin: "Tonight was a great indication of the summer league, because he's missed most of the training camp (for the birth of his son). He was in the right spots. He can really shoot the ball if he gets his feet set."
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