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Utah Jazz: Travis Leslie — and his mom — are excited for another NBA opportunity

Published: Monday, March 11 2013 2:15 p.m. MDT

New Jazz guard Travis Leslie meets with Utah media after Monday's shootaround. (Jody Genessy, Deseret News) New Jazz guard Travis Leslie meets with Utah media after Monday's shootaround. (Jody Genessy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — There was no doubt in Travis Leslie's mind about what person would receive the first phone call from him when he found out that the Utah Jazz were giving him another shot at the NBA.

"My mom," he said, smiling. "Definitely."

You can imagine the reaction that Leslie's mom, Virginia, had in Atlanta when hearing her 22-year-old son, whose previous NBA stint only lasted 10 games, tell her that he was being called up from the D-League to join the Jazz on a 10-day contract.

"She was beyond happy. I can't even explain it," Leslie said. "She was screaming. She was very excited. Hopefully, if I stay here long enough, she can come out here soon."

Leslie's reaction was similar when his agent and then coach broke the news Friday. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound guard has excelled and developed enough while with the Santa Cruz Warriors this season that the Jazz decided to give him a shot at a roster spot.

The newest member of the Jazz, Travis Leslie sits on the bench as the Jazz and the Pistons play Monday, March 11, 2013 at Energy Solutions Arena. The Jazz won 103-90. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) The newest member of the Jazz, Travis Leslie sits on the bench as the Jazz and the Pistons play Monday, March 11, 2013 at Energy Solutions Arena. The Jazz won 103-90. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Utah waived disgruntled guard Raja Bell on Sunday to create an opening for Leslie, the D-League's All-Star Game MVP.

Leslie participated with the Jazz for the first time Monday morning at the team's shootaround session.

"I was excited," Leslie said. "Great opportunity to come out here and show what I can do. I'm just going to go out there and do whatever they need me to do."

Because of health issues, Leslie even got to wear his No. 23 Jazz uniform for the first time against the Pistons at EnergySolutions Arena.

Leslie's 10-day clock started Sunday, but Monday was his first leap into the Jazz practice pool with the whole squad.

"It was nice. I got a good sweat in," Leslie said. "They're just trying to get me comfortable with the system, going over the plays, getting some good shots up."

The newest member of the Jazz, Travis Leslie walks off the floor at halftime as the Jazz play the Pistons Monday, March 11, 2013 in Energy Solutions Arena. The Jazz won 103-90. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) The newest member of the Jazz, Travis Leslie walks off the floor at halftime as the Jazz play the Pistons Monday, March 11, 2013 in Energy Solutions Arena. The Jazz won 103-90. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Though this is a new situation, Leslie isn't coming in as a stranger.

Leslie, the 47th pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, knows Mo Williams and Randy Foye from playing 10 games with the Los Angeles Clippers last season. He became offseason friends with DeMarre Carroll, and the Georgia native is a longtime acquaintance of Atlanta guys Derrick Favors and Kevin Murphy.

"It helps a lot if you're familiar with the guys," Corbin said. "They know you. They kind of know your game."

Favors said he won't hold it against Leslie that his high school team beat the third-year power forward's by about 30 points — or the fact that his Georgia Tech squad was beaten by the new Jazzman's Georgia team when they played. Leslie teased Favors and Murphy about his prep team's success against theirs.

The newest member of the Jazz, Travis Leslie walks off the floor after the Jazz beat the Pistons Monday, March 11, 2013 in Energy Solutions Arena 103-90. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) The newest member of the Jazz, Travis Leslie walks off the floor after the Jazz beat the Pistons Monday, March 11, 2013 in Energy Solutions Arena 103-90. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

"It's all good," Favors said, smiling.

Favors enjoyed catching up and said he likes Leslie's game.

"He's athletic," Favors said. "He can really get up dunking and make plays."

Williams joked that he was going to make Leslie bring doughnuts to practice as a continuation of his rookie responsibilities from last year in L.A.

"He was my rook last year," the Jazz point guard said, "so I took pretty good care of him, I hope."

Williams is happy to see a former teammate get a second chance.

"Absolutely. He's a hard worker. He even trained with me in the summertime before his rookie year when we drafted him in L.A.," Williams recalled. "I know the hard work he puts in to get another opportunity to go to the D-League and shine like he did and get an opportunity like now. It's well deserved. I'm happy for him. He's in a good situation. This is a great organization."

The newest member of the Jazz, Travis Leslie sits on the bench as the Jazz and the Pistons play Monday, March 11, 2013 at Energy Solutions Arena. The Jazz won 103-90. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) The newest member of the Jazz, Travis Leslie sits on the bench as the Jazz and the Pistons play Monday, March 11, 2013 at Energy Solutions Arena. The Jazz won 103-90. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Leslie said his forte is playing with "a lot of energy." He called himself a rebounding guard and a good mid-range shooter, which was evident by his stat line in Santa Cruz: 16.1 points on 51.1 percent shooting, 7.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists.

"Just bring a lot of energy," he added. "Yeah, just bring a lot of energy."

That's something that a team that has lost four straight and seven of eight can use, even if it only manifests itself in practice.

Corbin likes the combination of Leslie's physical presence and athleticism.

"Tough kid. He plays hard. He worked his butt off to get an opportunity," Corbin said. "He's excited to be here. We look forward to him being with us and seeing what he can do to help us."

If not this season, perhaps for next year.

And Leslie's impression of Utah?

"I like it a lot. From Twitter, the fan support is unbelievable," Leslie said. "It's kind of cold out here, though."

Leslie and one very excited woman in Atlanta only hope he stays long enough to see what spring in Salt Lake City is like.

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