Favoring Utah: Beehive State becoming home, sweet home for Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors

Published: Tuesday, July 30 2013 10:00 p.m. MDT

The beginning of his NBA career was filled with a hope for quickly establishing himself in the league and the dreaded anticipation of being traded, something that was rumored for much of his rookie season leading up to that midseason deal.

“I was just waiting for my chance to prove myself,” Favors said.

After being dealt to Utah, Favors’ first thought was, “Utah. Wow.” Once he arrived in Utah, he quickly discovered that the Jazz had two veteran big men — Millsap and Jefferson — who led the team in scoring and minutes played.

Less wow. More waiting.

“It was frustrating at first,” he admitted. “Then I had to sit down and just realize that these two guys are good and I’ve just got to learn as much as I can from them, but it was frustrating at first.”

In 2011, Favors began the lockout-shortened season as the starting power forward ahead of Millsap. That, however, lasted two games before he returned to a reserve role that continued through the 2012-13 campaign.

That meant more waiting for the young man hoping to win a championship and become an All-Star and Hall of Famer.

On one hand, Favors understood. He even admitted, “I knew Paul was better than me.” But the Olympic team candidate and 2012 NBA “Rising Star” selection likes sitting on the bench about as much as he enjoyed the lower-back injury that left him feeling “mad as hell” and spoiled his Team USA scrimmage in Vegas last Thursday.

“I still keep it with me as motivation, just deep down in me as motivation,” said Favors, who's averaged 8.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 23.4 minutes per game in his first three seasons.

“I was thankful and blessed to play behind (Millsap and Jefferson) because those two (were) great guys and I learned a lot from them, but I still use it as motivation. … I’m not going to let that happen to me again.”

This won’t come as a shock to fans familiar with Corbin’s tendency to play veterans over younger guys, but the Jazz coach believes Favors’ career will benefit from biding his time behind Millsap.

“I think it’s always helped guys to have to earn whatever they get,” Corbin said. “They don’t like it, but the ones who use it right as motivation and continue to work, I think it can be a great thing for them going down the road.”

Corbin smiled when asked about that chip on the shoulder of Favors, who only has 44 starts so far. He knows his young player isn’t a malcontent, and he likes that he’s not satisfied with sitting on the bench.

“He’s shown tremendous dedication about what we’ve talked about,” Corbin said after watching Favors in Las Vegas with Team USA last week. “He’s been in Salt Lake more. He’s starting to work earlier and harder during the offseason to get ready for the next year.”

Corbin credited Favors for “showing growth” since the Jazz ended their second non-playoff season in three years April 17.

“He’s doing all of the things that we need him to do to show that he deserves more time. That’s what we want,” the coach said. “He’s going to have an opportunity now to get a lot more time and he wants to be ready for it. He’s doing the things to give himself a chance to be successful.”

Favors is committed to help those around him be successful, too. One thing he focused on during his national experience in Vegas was being a vocal leader on the defensive end, and he could be heard barking out orders in UNLV’s Mendenhall Center during scrimmages.

The Jazz have asked him — and Hayward — to take on a leadership role and he’s eager to seize it. That might seem like it’s against his nature, especially considering Hayward still laughs about how quiet Favors was when he first arrived in Utah.

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