I’m a guy who’s going to come out there and play whatever position I have to play, guarding the ball, running the squad, getting guys (their) shots. —Diante Garrett
SALT LAKE CITY — Like most people in America, Diante Garrett was at Wal-Mart on Monday night checking off his grocery list when he got a phone call.
It wasn’t from a loved one telling him that he needed to pick up a dozen eggs.
It was about a new job opportunity.
“I was getting some stuff for the apartment juice, some milk and cereal,” Garrett explained. “My agent called me and he was like, ‘Utah Jazz want you to come out.’”
Garrett, a point guard who was preparing to play for the Iowa Energy in the D-League after being cut by the Oklahoma City Thunder just before the NBA season began, was stunned.
“I couldn’t believe it at first and then I got really excited,” said Garrett, who played 19 games with the Phoenix Suns last season. “I don’t even remember if I bought everything at Wal-Mart.”
The new Jazzman left everybody stunned after he contributed to his team's first win of the season Wednesday night, just hours after signing with the organization. He hit his first 3-pointer after coming out on the court to begin the second quarter.
"Hitting that first shot just felt like, 'OK, I'm comfortable,'" Garrett said. "I know I can make the shot 100,000 times. I hit that first shot and I was like, 'Yeah, good. I'm good now.'"
Before becoming a new fan favorite at EnergySolultions Arena, Garrett left Iowa and the groceries purchased behind and flew to Utah on Tuesday. The 6-foot-4 point guard officially signed with the Jazz ahead of Wednesday’s game against New Orleans, a day after the organization waived veteran Jamaal Tinsley.
“Jamaal, we love what he’s done for us the last couple of years. We just new needed some speed,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said of the decision to release Tinsley, who didn’t even last three weeks in his second stint with Utah. “Nothing against him, it’s just where we are right now. We need to pick up the pace a little bit. We just need to get a little pep, and hopefully Diante can give us a little bit of that.”
Garrett spent most of his first full day in Salt Lake City watching film and learning about Utah’s system from the coaching staff. Moments after conducting his first interview with local media, Garrett made his Jazz debut to begin the second quarter against the Pelicans.
It didn’t take long for Garrett to become a new fan favorite. He scored five of his seven points with two assists and a turnover in his initial nine-minute appearance. He then played the entire fourth quarter after starter John Lucas III was benched in the second half following an 0 for 7 first half.
That, despite Garrett admitting before the game that he only knows about three or four Jazz plays.
“I’m just going to come out and do what I do. Coach has been having confidence in me since I got here. That’s boosted my confidence up,” Garrett said. “I’m a guy who’s going to come out there and play whatever position I have to play, guarding the ball, running the squad, getting guys (their) shots.”
Incidentally, Garrett, who just turned 25, is an Iowa State product like the guy he replaced. He noted that coincidence as well.
“When I first heard it, I’m like, 'That’s crazy, Iowa State — out with the old, in with the new,'” Garrett said. “I got a chance to meet Jamaal. He’s a great guy. Things happen.” Since ending his college career in 2011, the former Cyclone has played for the Bakersfield Jam in the D-League and with two European teams.
“He’s quicker. He’s longer. He should be able to stay between his man and the basket,” Corbin said. “We like the way he worked in other places. We watched him in summer league some. We’re looking forward to him being able to play on both ends of the floor.”
They’re looking forward to it even more after Wednesday’s debut.