Fourth of July surprise! Steve Novak stunned but excited to play for Utah Jazz
Danny Moloshok, AP
SALT LAKE CITY — Steve Novak was in line to get ice cream with his family Friday afternoon in Milwaukee, enjoying the Fourth of July like millions of other Americans, when he was stunned by some texts from a teammate.
The crux of the surprising messages from Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry: "You just got traded to Utah!"
Novak, who was dealt to the Raptors from the Knicks just a year ago after thinking he’d finally found his long-term NBA home in New York, wasn’t expecting that news. He even wrote back to Lowry, “Are you kidding me?”
Traded again? To Utah? On Independence Day?
“It was the Fourth of July. I didn’t have any idea that you could get traded on a national holiday,” Novak said, laughing, Saturday evening in a phone interview with the Deseret News. “I didn’t think GMs worked so hard.”
Sure enough, general managers Dennis Lindsey (Utah) and Masai Ujiri (Toronto) engaged in some holiday wheeling and dealing on the United States’ 238th birthday, ultimately exchanging a pair of NBA players who call Milwaukee home, Novak and Diante Garrett.
As a result, the Jazz ended up with a sharpshooting veteran big man, which they wanted to acquire this offseason, and the Raptors, who’ll reportedly waive Garrett, shed $7.2 million in salary over the next two seasons.
Utah officials can’t comment officially on acquiring the 6-foot-10 forward and a future second-round pick until the NBA’s moratorium ends on July 10, but don’t be surprised when Lindsey returns the favor and gushes about his new player’s work ethic.
After all, Novak is a guy — a coach’s son, mind you — who wouldn’t step away from the basketball hoop until he hit 300 outside shots every day as a teenager en route to becoming the 2002 Wisconsin player of the year and earning a scholarship to his hometown school, Marquette.
More than a decade later, the 2006 NCAA 3-point champion still usually puts up enough shots to snap the nets 200 times a day.
“For me, shooting the ball and being in the gym, it’s how I was raised. I was kind of born in the gym,” said Novak, whose dad, Michael, coached him at Brown Deer High. “At this point, it’s more of who I am. I start to go crazy if I haven’t gone to the gym every day.”
Fully on board
Not long after getting surprised by his soon-to-be-former teammate, Novak received a call from his soon-to-be-GM (whom he spent time with in San Antonio in 2011, by the way). By the time their conversation ended, Novak was fully on board with this chance to play with what he described as a “great young core” in an unexpected career shift.
“I (am) extremely excited,” Novak said. “It’s a young group we have, but we can get a lot better quickly.”
Novak was already familiar with Jazz coach Quin Snyder and his preferred open-floor, fast-pace system from when Marquette played Missouri while he was in college and from seeing the Austin Toros during a short D-League stint with the Reno Bighorns and while with the Spurs in 2011.
“It’s up-tempo. It’s scoring. It’s shooting. It’s exciting,” Novak said of Snyder’s style. “I think it’s a great fit for me.”
The Jazz do, too.
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