Favoring Utah: Beehive State becoming home, sweet home for Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors
“He didn’t talk ever,” Hayward said. “You basically had to do everything you could to get him to say, “What’s up?” to you.”
Hayward said his teammate has opened up and is fun to be around now, but Favors, who can be as quiet off the court as he is powerful on it, doesn’t deny clamming up in the beginning.
“When I first got here in Utah, I was just overwhelmed with everything,” he said. “I didn’t feel like talking with nobody. I didn’t feel like hanging with nobody. I just wanted to hurry up and get the season over and go home. As the years went on, I opened up a lot more.”
Now he’s downright crazy around his teammates, right?
“Give me a couple of years,” Hayward said, grinning, “and I’ll get back to you on that.”
Jazz teammates and fans can expect to see and hear more from Favors in the future.
“I’m not going to be uncomfortable doing it,” he said, matter-of-factly. “I’m not scared to talk and say what I need to say. It’s just if I have to, I’ll do it.”
Favors’ little brother can attest to that.
Neither of them have had their dads in their lives — Favors has never met his dad, in fact — but the maturing Jazz player has taken on a long-distance role as a father figure for the 13-year-old. He doesn’t call him in Atlanta every two or three hours like his caring mom, Deandra, calls Favors and his two siblings. But he definitely keeps tabs on Brandon from the other side of the country.
“I’m real close to him. I’m more of a male role (model) with him — the older, big brother role,” he said. “I’ve got to go there and make sure his head is on straight, make sure he’s doing good. I make sure he’s doing school. I make sure he keeps his room clean. It’s hard right now, but we’re working on it.”
Best interests at heart
In a different supervisory role, Favors is also looking after the best interests of his favorite animal — the pit bull puppy he bought in April. He had to set some house rules with his girlfriend when she dressed Gotti up in a fluorescent green shirt.
“I was so mad. It was a regular doggie shirt,” he said, shaking his head while cracking a smile. He told his thoughtful-but-misguided girlfriend, “Don’t buy my pit bull no shirt. Let him be a pit bull.”
For the record, Gotti now has a new friend who gets dressed up and treated like a baby — a gorki called Rocky, owned by Favors’ girlfriend.
Before his new experiences of taking care of others, Favors looked up to the 17-year-olds he played with as a 14-year-old on his AAU team, the Atlanta Celtics. It was the honest and open leadership provided to him by his coach from that traveling squad that still resonates.
Favors appreciates that coach Jamar Stegall, who used to call the talented player “The Package,” continues to offer constructive criticism to this day. It’s an example the 2009 Mr. Basketball USA hopes to emulate with the rebuilding Jazz.
“He’s always in my ear — whether things are going good or going bad — motivating me. He’s not afraid to tell me anything,” Favors said. “He tells me if I’m not doing right. If I’m not working hard, he’ll tell me. You need people like that. If you’re slacking off, you need somebody to say, ‘Hey man, you need to get your (butt) up and go to the gym.’”
More than ever, Favors realizes that devotion and continual self-motivation are critical to his long-term goals. Now that he’s a few months from the golden opportunity that he’s waited for so long, Favors recognizes it’s on him to be a hard worker, a defensive beast, a reliable offensive presence and a solid leader for his teammates to get that chance someday to hold the NBA’s Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.
And Favors believes he will.
“I feel like inside I’ve got the heart to do it,” the soft-spoken-but-convincing Favors said. “I’ve got the ambition to do it, and I really want to win before my career’s over with.”
Utah doesn’t have good Southern cooking like he’ll find at his favorite Atlanta restaurant, Mary Mac’s Tea Room. He’s also aware the NBA is a business, so who really knows where his career will take him.
But, for now, the new homeowner can envision Utah being his unlikely home-away-from-home for years to come.
“I hope so,” he said. “I don’t want to move again.”
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