WASHINGTON — The Utah Jazz got invited to go to work with one of their biggest fans in the nation’s capital Tuesday morning.
They happily accepted the offer.
It’s not every day a senator asks you to hang out with him at the U.S. Capitol, after all.
It’s possible the players recognize Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch more for his music than his politics, but they enjoyed spending time in the workplace of their organization’s elected official.
“It was cool to see some of the things and experience it with my teammates,” Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward said. “Meeting a senator was something I’ve never done. We got a little VIP tour, so that was cool too.”
The players didn’t go to the White House in the morning with the auxiliary staff because their flight from Milwaukee didn’t get to D.C. until 3 a.m., but it was another interesting team field trip for them.
Hayward was especially impressed that Hatch’s office, which has a stunning view of the Washington Monument and National Mall, used to be Thomas Jefferson’s library.
“That,” he said, “was pretty cool to be walking around there.”
Forward Marvin Williams called the team field trip “super informative, super fun.”
Hatch explained to the Jazz the ins and outs of his responsibilities and briefed them on how the U.S. government works. After hearing that, Enes Kanter, who’s from Turkey, was fascinated by the long hours lawmakers put in while in session.
“The government sometimes took all night. It’s crazy,” he said, admiringly. “I don’t know how those guys do it.”
Williams was taken back by the enormity of the government offices, including what he described as “an underground world.” He was also impressed that Hatch has been in office since 1977, which was before any of the Jazz players were born.
“He seemed like a great, great guy. He seemed to be a pretty big Jazz fan, which was really exciting,” Williams said. “We met some other Jazz fans as we went throughout the tour. It was really fun. It was really good to see.” The one thing Hayward wasn’t able to see was the section of the U.S. Capitol devoted to Hoosier State history.
“I asked somebody where the Indiana part was and they didn’t know,” he said. “No luck.”
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin appreciated the personal tour.
"It was a great experience," he said. "We really appreciate Sen. Hatch for inviting us over and the time that he spent with us."
FUTURE AMERICAN?: Kanter was born in Switzerland and grew up in Turkey until moving to the U.S. in 2009. Since then, he played a season of prep ball in California, attended the University of Kentucky as a freshman and has been in Utah for three years.
Someday, Kanter could see himself becoming an American citizen and settling his roots in this country.
“I’m going to try to do both one day eventually,” Kanter said. “Get a green card, try to (become) a (dual) citizen of Turkey and America.”
The 21-year-old, who’ll be eligible for a contract extension this summer, lives in Chicago in the offseason. Regardless of his NBA home, he could also see himself living in New York or New Jersey, too.
On Wednesday, Kanter visited with a Turkish group that attended the Jazz-Wiz game.
SMALL CHANGE: For the first time in a while, Malcolm Thomas was made available to play Wednesday night. The power forward was among the 13 Jazz players to dress for the game against the Wizards, while veteran center Andris Biedrins was on the inactive list.
Thomas didn’t end up playing, but it could be a sign that the Jazz are going to give him more opportunities down the road. Thomas has only appeared in three games — but not since Feb. 22 — since the Jazz acquired the 6-9 big man off waivers after his stint with the Spurs.
Biedrins, by the way, has been available but hasn’t played since logging two minutes against Miami on Dec. 16.