SALT LAKE CITY — Remember how Diante Garrett was shopping at a Walmart in Iowa when he got the call about getting signed by the Utah Jazz earlier this season?
His new teammate, Malcolm Thomas, can one-up that fun story.
On Thursday, Thomas was waived by the San Antonio Spurs.
Two days later, the 6-foot-9, 225-pound power forward was in a San Diego salon getting a pedicure with his mom when he got a call with news that he’d been picked up by the Jazz.
“It’s not too manly,” he said, laughing. “But that’s what I was doing.”
(Some might say there's nothing more manly than spending time with your mom, but that's another story.)
On Sunday, Thomas didn’t show reporters his pampered feet, but he was at Zions Bank Basketball Center for the first workout with his new team.
Sporting a No. 22 practice jersey, Thomas said he’s grateful for a “fresh start” with a rebuilding organization. He doesn't even mind that his preferred No. 4 wasn't available.
“I just know they’re young and they play hard, and that’s what I do,” the 25-year-old Thomas said. “So I feel like it’s a good fit for me.”
Jazz management, which has had Thomas on its radar since he played with Kawhi Leonard at San Diego State from 2009-11, hopes that turns out to be the case. General manager Dennis Lindsey said it's worth checking out the rest of the season. However, with bigs like Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Marvin Williams, Rudy Gobert and Jeremy Evans ahead of Thomas in the pecking order, it might take awhile for that to play out.
Thomas believes he’ll be able to eventually work his way into the rotation. He’s picked up basketball wisdom and experience during his globetrotting experiences, and said his outside shot has improved.
“I feel like people that saw me in the beginning thought I was just athletic and nothing else really,” he said. “But I feel like I’ve developed a lot. I can shoot a little bit now. I can post up.”
That said, Thomas admitted his specialties are “energy, defense, rebounding.”
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin doesn't mind that at all.
“He’s a hustle guy,” Corbin said. “He can shoot the ball for a big. He plays with a lot of energy and he’s young.”
Thomas has played around the world since leaving the Aztecs three years ago, including stints in South Korea, Israel, four D-League teams and with the Spurs (twice), Bulls and Warriors.
The Jazz invited him to work out for them last summer, but he couldn’t due to a foot injury. Six months later, he was “surprised” Utah wanted to claim him off waivers.
“It’s hard to crack the rotation in San Antonio with a team that’s been together for so long,” he said. “But I feel like this is a great opportunity for me. We’re all around the same age. We can build a chemistry.”
Before Utah interrupted his pedicure, Thomas was starting to wonder if he’d have to head back overseas to jump-start his playing career after being let go by the Spurs.
“I’m just glad it happened when it did,” he said. “I’m happy to be here.”
The former Aztec said he’d previously only visited Utah during his college career. During his senior season, SDSU beat the Utes 71-62 at the Huntsman Center on Jan. 26, 2011, but Thomas’s Sweet 16 squad lost 71-58 at BYU two weeks later. Thomas smiled and grimaced when the name Jimmer Fredette was brought up — perhaps because the former Cougar star scored 43 points that night in the upset win over the then-fourth-ranked Aztecs.
“Unfortunately, it’s burned in my brain. He did a lot of bad things to us,” Thomas said, chuckling. “He’s a good guy, though.”
As it turns out, Jimmer will be in town Monday night when the Kings visit the Jazz in Thomas’s first game with his new team.
“Hopefully, he doesn’t have a performance like he did in college,” Thomas said. “That would be bad.”
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