Utah Jazz: A few slices of holiday spirit from a thoughtful 'Jazz guy'

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 4 2013 9:10 a.m. MST

Only two media members went to Jazz practice on Thanksgiving. Good thing I brought reinforcements.

Jody Genessy

Editor's note: Deseret News sportswriter Jody Genessy writes about personal experiences, wacky family adventures, weight-loss efforts and travel tales in his personal humor blog. This heartwarming story first appeared at jodygenessy.com.

During my two decades of being a sportswriter, I’ve discovered that some of the best stories don’t happen during games.

My favorite personal story from covering the Utah Jazz this season happened last week between the team’s win over Chicago on Monday and its loss to Phoenix on Friday.

This uplifting experience involved a struggling Jazz player who’s received much more negative attention than positive because of some on-court difficulties.

It also involved kids, my kids, who couldn’t care less about missed shots or statistics.

The Jazz, who lost 14 of their first 15 games, need all the extra work they can get, so it wasn’t surprising when coaches scheduled a practice for Thanksgiving morning. Of course, I grumbled when I found out. If the team practiced, I also had to be there. There are two things sportswriters usually don’t have: weekends and holidays.

I decided to make the most of it. With the Jazz’s permission, I brought three of my four children to Thursday’s 9 a.m. practice.

Several players were shooting on the courts at Zions Bank Basketball Center when we arrived at 8:30. While waiting for Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin to come out of his office for an interview, my kids and I sat on the gym’s purple bleachers and watched players warm up.

Most guys didn’t pay attention to us, which was perfectly fine. My kids were there to be at work with dad, not to hobnob (not that they know what hobnob means).

When new Jazz players John Lucas III and Brandon Rush came out of the locker room, they saw us and walked straight to my rowdy bunch. Both NBA pros offered me a warm “Happy Thanksgiving” greeting. They then took a moment with my kids. Rush kindly told them, “Hi,” and shook their hands.

Lucas also grasped each child’s hand, learned their names and asked what their favorite pie was. Ethan, 9, and Sydney, 7, both told him, “pumpkin.” Aidan let him know that “punkin pie” was this 4-year-old’s preferred Thanksgiving dessert.

“Have you ever tried pumpkin cheesecake?” Lucas asked.

“No,” they replied.

“You should have your dad take you to The Cheesecake Factory and get some pumpkin cheesecake.”

The good-natured Lucas then laughed, as he often does, and walked onto the court to shoot before practice.

A minute later, Corbin came out, gave my kids fist bumps and jokingly (I think) told them, “Your questions will be better than your dad’s.” Tribune writer Steve Luhm and I proceeded to do our interview, part of which was conducted with a toddler’s head lodged between my legs.

Everybody laughed when the Jazz coach finished and preschool-aged Aidan said, “Can we go eat turkey now?”

The story was good on its own up to this point, but it gets even better.

Corbin has always been very pleasant to kids when they’re around, and he was again this time. My oldest son thought it was cool to see forward Marvin Williams, who apparently plays well on a video game called "NBA 2K13." Rush and Lucas didn’t have to come over and meet my children, but they did. It was fun for them, and, honestly, was kinda neat for their dad to see the spontaneous interaction. A good job perk.

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