Utah Jazz: New Jazz point guard Diante Garrett makes 'unbelievable' first impression
Rick Bowmer, AP
SALT LAKE CITY — Diante Garrett, a suddenly familiar name in Utah, didn’t hit an unbelievable 3-point shot to beat LeBron James’ team. He didn’t end up celebrating on the scorer’s table at EnergySolutions Arena, either.
He hasn’t quite reached Sundiata Gaines status as a D-League call-up legend.
But the 25-year-old made one heck of a first impression with the Utah Jazz and fans Wednesday night in the team's 111-105 victory over New Orleans.
“I’m shocked,” Jazz center Enes Kanter admitted. “He came (Tuesday), and then he played (Wednesday). He played unbelievable. I appreciate him. He stepped up big time and played big.”
And he did it only hours after signing with the Jazz.
Not long after telling media about how he learned of his new opportunity while shopping at Wal-Mart late Monday night, Garrett scored seven points, had five assists and played a key role in Utah’s first win of the 2013-14 season.
“I was happy all night (Wednesday) night,” Garrett said, smiling before Thursday’s practice. “I won’t forget it.”
Neither will his new team and fans.
“Everybody in this locker room knew what he was capable of doing,” Jazz small forward Marvin Williams said. “He really stepped up. He was a monster (Wednesday). He was huge.”
Williams benefited from one of Garrett’s best plays, which, incidentally, came after a careless turnover by the Jazz newcomer.
With Utah up by one, Garrett found himself open from mid-range on the baseline in front of his team’s bench. Instead of taking a short shot, Garrett dished it out to a wide-open Williams, who was perched behind the 3-point line on the opposite side of the court.
Williams, who had 12 points and 12 rebounds in his best game this season, swished the deep shot to give the Jazz a more comfortable 104-100 lead with 1:22 remaining.
“I remembered that he just hit one, too. Two plays, ago, he just hit a 3,” Garrett recalled. “I got to the right position, about to shoot it and I seen him in the corner of my eye (and thought), ‘He’s wide open. I should pass it to him.’ And he knocked it down for me.”
Garrett was mobbed by meida in the locker room. In fact, the press throng was so big that rookie Ian Clark had to wait in a towel before he was able to get back to his locker to dry off and get dressed.
Garrett then stayed up late, celebrating his NBA return on the phone with his parents in Milwaukee.
“They were excited,” Garrett said. “It made me more excited.”
The 25-year-old laughed when sharing part of the conversation with his parents.
“My mom was very excited," he said. "She couldn’t stop yelling, ‘Good job, baby!’”
And, yes, he enthusiastically imitated her higher-pitched voice while saying that as his teammates warmed up for practice on the court several feet away.
Next up for his parents?
Buying the NBA League Pass, so they can watch the Jazz’s new backup point guard.
"I’m pretty sure they’ll get it soon," he said. "Probably today or tomorrow."
The Jazz play again Friday night at home against the San Antonio Spurs and then again Saturday at Golden State, so hopefully it's set up in time for the weekend's games.
This is the second stint in the league for Garrett, who played in 19 games with the Phoenix Suns during the 2012-13 season. He was one of the final cuts at Oklahoma City just before this season started in late October.
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