Utah Jazz: Rookie Kevin Murphy misses one delivery, makes most important one
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The way he tells the story, Kevin Murphy was in the process of fulfilling his rookie duties on the first day of training camp when his phone rang.
His wife, Shekedra, was on the other end. Her news not only changed Murphy's immediate plans, but forever altered his life.
"I was actually on the way to get the team doughnuts," Murphy explained, "and she called me and said her water just broke, 'Can you come home now?'"
Choosing family over fritters, Murphy called the Jazz, bailed on the bakery and began a whirlwind couple of days.
The 22-year-old flew to Atlanta on Tuesday to be with his expectant wife, praying she wouldn’t deliver their first bundle of joy while he was airborne for four hours.
Fortunately, Kevin Murphy Jr. didn't arrive until the next day, with mom (obviously) and dad (gratefully) both in the room.
"It was a good experience for me," Murphy said. "It was a beautiful and ugly scene at the same time."
Murphy's son wasn't due to arrive until this Monday, so, although he missed four two-a-day practice sessions, it was a relief the birth happened early enough that he could experience the important moment and rejoin the team in camp.
Murphy couldn’t be more appreciative of the way the Jazz handled his situation — from helping arrange a flight back to Georgia to the way the coaching staff understandingly allowed him to miss training time.
"I just feel like they're just family-oriented," Murphy said at Friday's morning practice. "This is business second."
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin, a father of two, wouldn't have it any other way.
"We were fortunate that his new baby came healthy and his wife's doing well," Corbin said. "And to get him back so he can start learning with this group of guys is good."
Murphy's return flight to Utah got him back in time to participate in part of Thursday morning's workout.
"It was a tough day for him," Corbin said. "But it was a good day."
"I ain't slept in two days while I was down there," Murphy said. "I ain't have time to do nothing but listen to my wife cry and my baby cry."
Murphy's wife and Junior will move to Utah in three or four weeks, so now the first-year player is ready to "just focus on basketball right now."
He'll happily put off diaper-changing duties for now.
It bodes well for Murphy's chances of quickly catching up that he got to know the Jazz system, coaches and some players while participating with the summer league team in Orlando.
Now Murphy's focus is to "become a family with the Jazz." This includes working hard while helping his teammates and learning from them.
"I just have to go out there and play every day, just play hard," Murphy said. "Just show them I'm competing."
The Jazz were so high on the unheralded Murphy’s scoring ability that they used their No. 47 draft pick on the 6-foot-6 shooting guard, who turned in a 50-point game last season. The trick, Corbin pointed out, is that Murphy needs to learn how to come off of screens and use his "speed and craftiness" to find free space against bigger and quicker guys than the ones he ate up last year at Tennessee Tech.
"He's a shooter," Corbin said. "He can really shoot the ball once he gets open, but you've got to get open."
The Jazz also want to see the strong-but-slim 185-pounder develop other facets of his game. Murphy, who averaged 8.6 points and 2.4 rebounds during summer league play, said it's a priority to learn the pace of the NBA, which for him includes slowing down and surveying what's happening.
"Basically, they all know I can shoot, that I can score the ball," Murphy said. "They want to see what else I can do, basically, on the defensive end, rebounding, just be a complete player."
He might want to make good on getting his teammates some pastries, too.
"They let me slide on the first day with that one," Murphy said, laughing.
Or did they?
"I don't know if I'll buy the story of him on his way to get doughnuts. That's a little too good to be true," Jazz veteran Earl Watson joked. "He's a smart rookie, though. He says the right things, so I'll give him credit for that."
Embellished story or not, one day Kevin Marquis Murphy Jr. will probably enjoy hearing about how he made his dad bail on the bakery.
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