It’s always great to come back to Atlanta. I love it. It's just a relief from everything. —Jazz forward Derrick Favors
ATLANTA — Derrick Favors is a Georgia boy to the core.
He grew up on Cleveland Avenue on Atlanta’s south side, Waffle House is still one of his go-to restaurants, he attended South Atlanta High School and won ACC Rookie of the Year at Georgia Tech.
So as his name is constantly the subject of frequent trade rumors, it’s only natural for the Utah Jazz big man to find solace at home.
Utah’s trip to Philips Arena Monday to face the Atlanta Hawks came at just the right time as Favors is rumored to be on the trading block.
“It’s always great to come back to Atlanta. I love it,” Favors said. “It’s just a relief from everything. Just being out of Utah, going through the season. Going through the trade rumors and stuff, it’s just a relief to come back to see family, see your friends, see your support system, to be back in Atlanta, which I love being in. It feels great.”
As soon as the Jazz touched down Sunday, Favors visited his family. All of his close relatives, including his parents, still reside in the area.
Growing up, Favors was exposed to cable, so his introduction to the game of basketball came through watching local Hawks games on televisions. One of his favorite players during that era was former Hawks star Joe Johnson, who is now his teammate for the time being in Utah.
“The Hawks was the only team that I watched with Joe Johnson and all those guys,” Favors said. “I was a big fan. I don’t know about everybody else because that’s when Boston had (Kevin Garnett) and the Lakers were big but I was a big Hawks fan."
Johnson, 36, spent seven seasons of his 17-year career in Atlanta — where he averaged a career-best 20.9 points, 5.2 assists and 4.2 boards. Atlanta reached the playoffs for five consecutive years during his prime run. During the 2007-08 season, Johnson helped the Hawks push the eventual NBA champion Boston Celtics to Game 7 in the first round. Those days were fun and he’s built some lifelong relationships, but Johnson says he’s moved on.
“The fact that we came from straight nothing when I got here and built it into a playoff team that was pretty good so that’s probably one of the things I’m most proud of,” Johnson said. “We were down for so long so I wanted to come to Atlanta and help build and change the culture and I thought we done a decent job about that.”
With the trade deadline set for 1 p.m. MT on Feb. 8, Favors has been rumored to join the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers or possibly the Chicago Bulls in a trade for Nikola Mirotic. The longest-tenured Jazzman has been productive this season, posting nightly averages of 12.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game. Favors is in the final year of his contract with unrestricted free agency approaching, but no matter where he ends up, he still remembers those days of being a kid without cable in Atlanta. The city still influences him in “every way.”
“It’s home for me. I grew up down here,” Favors said. “I love it down here. It just teaches you to grow up pretty quickly because it’s almost like every man for himself down here. You have to get it. I love it down here. I love Atlanta.”
ROAD TO RECOVERY: Former Jazzman Gordon Hayward continues to recover from his ankle injury in his first season as a Boston Celtic. His wife, Robyn, posted a video of him shooting standstill 3-pointers on Sunday without a chair. He’s still not jumping, and there’s still no timetable on when he will return, but he continues to make progress.