Utah Jazz: Derrick Favors, Devin Harris meet up with new teammates

Published: Thursday, Feb. 24 2011 6:00 p.m. MST

INDIANAPOLIS — A bit of news that came out of Thursday's Utah Jazz practice resides on the opposite end of the shocker scale from Wednesday's mind-boggling blockbuster trade with the New Jersey Nets.

Don't brace yourself or bother taking a seat while reading this next part. OK, here goes the non-shocker: Veteran point guard Devin Harris and rookie big man Derrick Favors are pretty dang happy about receiving new leases on their NBA lives.

Joining the Jazz organization and being freed from the Nets can have that affect.

"It's an exciting opportunity," Harris said.

"It's a new beginning for me," Favors added.

Both players — who ended up with Utah along with future first-round picks in a stunning deal that also sent Deron Williams to New Jersey — were physically cleared Thursday to practice and play for the Jazz after an exam in the Garden State by Utah's team physician, Dr. Lyle Mason.

Their first workout with the Jazz happened Thursday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse — home of Gordon Hayward's Butler Bulldogs — after they flew to Indiana from New Jersey following their phyiscals.

The dealt duo's first playing opportunity with their new team is expected to happen tonight when the Jazz visit the Indiana Pacers.

So far, so good for the ex-Nets, who picked up 14 wins overnight after being dealt away from 17-win New Jersey to 31-27 Utah.

"Guys were great welcoming me," Harris said of his new teammates, who met the two newcomers Thursday in Indianapolis shortly before practice.

Replacing a two-time All-Star and arguably the premier point guard in the NBA in Williams isn't as overwhelming or intimidating for Harris as some might imagine.

"Obviously, Deron was a great franchise player for this team, and it's some big shoes to fill," Harris said. "But I'm just looking forward to the opportunity of going out there and playing for a playoff team."

The one-time All-Star — and No. 5 pick of the 2004 draft — pointed out that he's been in similar replace-a-star situations a couple of times. That happened early in his career in Dallas where he took over for Steve Nash, and it happened again in New Jersey where he replaced Jason Kidd.

"It's something I've been grown accustomed to, something I'm used to," Harris said. "I just go out there and try to be myself and play my game and try to help the team win. ... I'm just excited to get back into a winning situation."

Harris acknowledged that his game has slipped a bit the past couple of seasons when he struggled along with the woeful Nets. But he believes his style — his quickness, penetrating skills, a solid mid-range game and defensive toughness — can help the Jazz continue (regain?) their winning tradition and "make some noise in the playoffs."

Added Harris: "It's just been a while since I've been in a relevant situation, and I'm excited to be here."

Harris, who's in his seventh season, believes he'll quickly pick up the Jazz offense. He jokingly asked coach Ty Corbin if they're going to run anything other than the usual six plays Utah thrives on.

"Everybody knows Utah's plays," Harris said, smiling. "It'll be fun trying to find a rhythm with the guys out there and try to make the transition as smooth as possible."

Corbin smiled when he heard Harris' response: "I'm glad he said he's familiar with it. Hopefully, the learning curve won't be as long."

Though his potential is sky-high, the 6-foot-10 Favors will likely take a bit longer to become adept to running a Jazz system that is a bit more complicated than Harris might want to admit.

The athletic 19-year-old has had a rocky rookie season — in part, he believes, because he's had to deal with his name constantly getting tossed about in trade talks since being the No. 3 overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft.

"I was mentally drained from it — just hearing my name in trade rumors all season," Favors said. "I'm relieved, and I'm with a team that hopefully I'll be here for a while so my name won't be thrown around in trade rumors."

The one-year Georgia Tech post player's offensive game has yet to blossom in the pros, but he said he brings "defense, rebounding, blocking shots, just playing with a lot of energy" to the court. Favors also claims to be a hard worker who is eager to immerse himself into the Jazz's ways.

"I've got to learn the plays, learn the system," he said. "But as soon as they're ready for me, I'll be ready."

Favors is still somewhat surprised — in a pleasant sense — that he is with a new team. For months, he'd been rumored to be Denver-bound as part of the proposed Carmelo Anthony deal that fizzled. That came as a relief to him, though.

Of course, Favors wasn't expecting to be headed to Utah via Indiana (and Detroit on Saturday), either.

Corbin said the Jazz will "try to make him comfortable first," and bring him along slowly to complement the games of Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson.

"I know his head's spinning from being traded," Corbin said.

Added Harris of Favors: "I think he's still trying to figure out what he does well. He's very athletic. He's a smart player, big body, strong kid. He's only 19 years old. He's got a lot of room for growth."

As for Harris, he's enticed about joining a team that is used to positive results.

"I'm coming into a winning tradition," he said. "They expect to win."

Harris believes he was brought in to continue that tradition, as does his new coach.

"He's an experienced point guard. He's been around. He's been successful in the league," Corbin said. "His speed, his leadership ability will help us, his toughness on defense will help us and just his experience in the league, and he's been a winner and that will help us also."

For how long?

It might be too early for Harris to tell if it's right for him to establish roots in Utah. The soon-to-be 28-year-old is under contract for the next two seasons.

"I'm just trying to get through the first game right now," Harris said, laughing. "We'll see how it goes."

The excitement begins tonight.

e-mail: jody@desnews.com

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