Utah Jazz: Old Friends Tour continues as Jazz face Atlanta, Charlotte
ATLANTA — Mention this weekend’s schedule, and you’re bound to get smiles from guys who’ve been around the Utah Jazz for the past few years.
The Old Friends Tour continues for the Jazz when they take on Atlanta on Friday and travel to Charlotte on Saturday.
Three-fifths of the Hawks’ starting lineup used to call Utah an NBA home, including longtime power forward Paul Millsap, shooting guard Kyle Korver and small forward DeMarre Carroll.
And the Bobcats, of course, signed ex-Jazz center Al Jefferson to a big deal over the summer.
“Great guys,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said.
But not just that.
The impact Jefferson and Millsap made on the young Jazz players, especially cornerstone bigs Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, is immeasurable.
“My first two years,” Kanter said, “I learned a lot from Al and Paul Millsap.”
“I think staying behind (them on the bench) helped me out a lot,” Favors said. “I wouldn’t be the player I am now, because I learned a lot from them.”
Specifically, Favors said Millsap showed him that he needed to be well-rounded, not just a big guy who relies on his strength and athleticism.
“I was a good athlete,” Favors said, “but there was stuff I needed to do to be a better basketball player and he helped me out a lot with that.”
Favors now finds himself trying to emulate Millsap’s mid-range game, the way he attacks off of the pick-and-roll, his “face-up game” and moves in the post.
According to Favors, Millsap continually helped the current Jazz big man see the wisdom in “doing different things aside from going in and dunking all the time. He helped me realize that and just how to be smarter out there.”
Watch Kanter go to work in the post, and you can see shades of Big Al in the guy Jefferson used to call Big Turk, especially when it comes to footwork and pump moves.
“It’s really exciting just because you’re teammates with them for so long,” Hayward said of the back-to-back games against Millsap and Jefferson. “I can’t wait for the Al Jefferson and Enes Kanter matchup on the block. I think that will be pretty exciting to watch.”
Kanter has been looking forward to it ever since Big Al signed a three-year, $40-plus million deal with the Bobcats this past offseason after it became clear the Jazz were looking to go young.
Later in the summer, Kanter went to the P3 performance facility the Jazz use in the offseason in Santa Barbara, Calif., when he ran into his ex-teammate. The two big men, who became fast friends despite coming from vastly different backgrounds in Mississippi and Turkey, started jawing about future Jazz-Bobcats games.
“I came in and I look over there and Al is there. Me, Al, Coach Corbin, and he was telling Coach Corbin, ‘Game of the year. Matchup of the year,’” Kanter said, smiling. “(Jefferson) said, ‘Don’t bring any double-team, Coach, we’re going to be playing one-on-one.’”
Kanter took the ribbing from his mentor and sent some friendly trash talk back in Big Al’s direction.
Kanter told Big Al, “I’m going to dunk on you. I’m going to block you.”
It remains to be seen if that'll happen.
But their friendship, respect and lessons learned will continue on.
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