SALT LAKE CITY — After an exciting season, stamped by an unexpected second-round playoff appearance, Jonas Jerebko was counting on returning this year as a Jazzman.
However, things took a twist when Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder called him directly after the re-signing of Derrick Favors to let him know he would be waived on July 7 before his contract became guaranteed.
Shortly after learning the news, Jerebko’s agent, Billy Duffy, informed him that another organization was interested: the Golden State Warriors.
With an opportunity to join the back-to-back champions, Jerebko viewed it as a no-brainer to ink a one-year, veteran minimum deal of $2.1 million, where he’s emerged as a pleasant surprise.
“Just veteran leadership when he’s out on the floor, he’s somebody that’s experienced a lot in the league,” Warriors star Kevin Durant said of Jerebko. “That helps everybody on the court when you just know how to play.”
Those intangibles and spacing were certainly on display in Jerebko’s first trip back to Utah on Oct. 19 where his game-winning tip-in off Durant’s missed jumper, helped the Warriors escape with a 124-123 win during the second game of the season. He’s averaging 7.6 points and 5.3 rebounds in 20.7 minutes per game as the team’s fifth-leading scorer with the sixth-most minutes. Golden State will face the Jazz again at 7 p.m. tonight.
Last season, he started in 19 of his 74 games played and put up 5.8 points and 3.3 boards in 15.3 minutes.
At 31-years-old in his ninth season — playing for his fourth different team — Jerebko feels his career has been rejuvenated in the Bay Area.
“One hundred percent! 100 percent,” Jerebko said. “Just being able to play consistent minutes, it’s something that I haven’t done in a while so it’s been awesome, it’s been great and I feel like I’ve played here for longer than three months.
“I’m just trying to take it one game at a time and helping my team win is the main part,” he added.
Jerebko compares the Warriors locker room to the Jazz’s in terms of the overall temperament with the group of guys. Obviously, the Warriors are more talented with Durant and Steph Curry both being MVP winners, but the energy is comparable to Utah’s, according to Jerebko.
“No really big egos, we try to play the right way, we’re moving the ball and we’re having fun playing basketball,” Jerebko said. “So, that’s our job and it’s a great group of guys so it’s just been easy for me to come in and the guys have really been receptive to me and my play style and the way I’m trying to play basketball so they’re giving me a lot of confidence and I’m trying to do the same with them.”
Durant sees Jerebko’s main weapons as spacing the floor, physicality in rebounding, and 3-point shooting — which he’s connecting at a 38.5 percent rate. He tries to move the ball and play the right way alongside some of the league’s most dangerous offensive threats.
“He’s definitely helping us,” Durant said.1 comment on this story
Although things didn’t work out for Jerebko in Utah, he admits that he watches the Jazz from time to time and anticipates them making a good run at some point to change things around. However, Jerebko is more so concerned on his season with the Warriors and trying to stretch it is as far as possible with a title.
“I’m just living in the now. I’m trying to make this season as memorable as I can and help this team as much as I can and I feel like I’m out there making this team better,” Jerebko said. “That’s all I want to do, I don’t want to come in and think about it too much, we’ve had ups and downs already in the season but that’s what this league is about. There’s a lot of games left and I’m working on my game daily.”