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NBA Free Agency

Utah’s Derrick Favors to test unrestricted free agency for first time

Forward will do his due diligence but is open to returning to Jazz and Salt Lake City

For 7½ seasons, Derrick Favors has been in Salt Lake City playing for the Utah Jazz. The Atlanta native and ex-Nets big man knows what a major-market city can offer from an entertainment, media and diversity standpoint. Less than 3 percent of the population in small-market Salt Lake City is African-American.

But if Favors departs from the Jazz as a free agent this offseason, his beloved Salt Lake City will not be the reason.

“I’ve been there for eight years, so I’m pretty much comfortable with it,” Favors said. “I’ve seen a lot of things. I’ve been to a lot of great places. The fan base is incredible. People down South and people in general don’t know much about Salt Lake City, Utah. They think it is just a boring town and they have no desire to go there. But I tell my friends and those who ask me, it is not as bad as you probably think it is. There are things to do there. There are good people there. Good restaurants. Good places to go.

“You just have to find stuff to do with whatever you like. And if you don’t like it, Vegas is not too far. You can catch a flight or drive to Vegas. I treat Utah, especially in the summertime, as my relaxing spot to get away from noise or to get peace of mind. I go to Utah to chill, relax and enjoy the scenery and what Utah has to offer. I am a guy who likes to sit on the patio and enjoy life and quiet time. In the summer, it is beautiful out there with the mountains. I go out there to meditate and enjoy the quiet time because it is not a fast-paced city, fast-energy like New York. You just chill out and relax.”

Favors is the longest-tenured member of the Jazz after arriving in the Deron Williams trade on Feb. 23, 2011, from the then-New Jersey Nets. Favors’ NBA career has included the Jazz picking up his team option twice and signing him to a four-year contract extension in 2013. For the first time in his career, the 6-foot-10, 265-pounder will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Favors is expected to be one of the top big men available.

Favors strongly states that he loves the Jazz from top to bottom, whether it is ownership, management, the coaching staff or his teammates. Even so, the 26-year-old believes it is in his best interest to do his due diligence when free agency begins.

“I’m definitely excited about being a free agent for the first time and pretty much getting a chance to control my own destiny,” Favors said. “I’m just trying to find the right situation that makes sense for me as a player. Be in the right spot. Get a chance to showcase my talent. Get a chance to showcase what I can do. I’m just focused on finding the right situation that is the right fit for me.”

Favors is in favor of visiting teams during free agency.

“I don’t think you get a really good feel over the phone,” Favors said. “I’d rather be face-to-face in a meeting, ask questions and kind of figure stuff out.”

Favors made the most of his time on the court with the Jazz last season. He averaged 12.3 points on 56.3 percent shooting and 7.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in just 28 minutes per contest in 77 games.

Favors and center Rudy Gobert, the 2018 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, played well together defensively and have strong camaraderie. And without Gobert for 11 games, Favors averaged 16.5 points on 61 percent shooting, 9.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 blocks while the Jazz won seven of the contests.

“It was a great season for me,” Favors said. “I think I exceeded a lot of expectations in a sense. I know there was a lot of question of how I would come back after the season before being injured a lot and with the way they are playing now basically with [small forward] at [power forward]. People wondered if I could guard the perimeter. I know there was a lot of question on whether me and Rudy could fit offensively. I know I went out and proved a lot of people wrong.

“I didn’t have the best stats because I had to sacrifice a lot. In terms of basketball, I exceeded a lot of expectations.”

Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors dunks in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans on Feb. 5. The Jazz won 133-109.

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

The Jazz also found success playing small ball without Favors. Surely Favors would like more minutes. How much will playing time be a factor in his decision?

“It weighs in a lot,” Favors said. “Like I said, I want to be in the right situation that benefits me as a player. It will play a big role.”

Favors said he really enjoyed for playing for Jazz coach Quin Snyder because he is “a cool dude with an open-door policy” and “communicates well.” Favors said he and Snyder agreed it would be better to start small forward Jae Crowder over Favors for matchup reasons in a second-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets. Favors showed the ability to adapt to today’s small ball in the NBA, as he shot a career-high 63 3-pointers last season, making 14. He shot 26 total 3-pointers in his previous seven seasons.

Favors said he had a positive end-of-season meeting with the Jazz in which they professed hope to re-sign him. He said the Jazz asked him to work on his 3-point shooting and free throw shooting this offseason. He has taken that advice to heart, working primarily on 3-point shooting in Atlanta.

“I am trying to work on more things to get more involved in the offense,” Favors said.

Favors believes the Jazz “want me back.” Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey acknowledged that re-signing Favors was a “high priority” and it was important to keep their core team intact. Lindsey added that the chemistry, camaraderie and respect that Favors and Gobert had for each other makes them a “great pair.”

Lindsey also said the Jazz have a “nice visitation cooked up” for Favors when free agency begins but declined to offer details.

“Derrick has to do his due diligence, and so do we,” Lindsey said. “But we think the best option is the incumbent ones and continuity. This team has the heart of the city. The city is attached to them. The players are really good people who play the right way and hard every night. Our fans are just asking for a group of guys who leave it all on the court. Derrick was an important part of the mix.

“The character of each individual allowed us not to separate when we were under .500 by nine games in January. The character of the team the last 38 games allowed us to be more accelerant and look like we had been together three or four years because of the cohesiveness and unselfishness. And that is a credit to the players and the coaches.”

After losing 2017 NBA All-Star Gordon Hayward to free agency, the Jazz were expected to have a rebuilding year last season. But with Gobert anchoring the defense and NBA Rookie of the Year finalist Donovan Mitchell scoring at will, the Jazz won 48 games and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Favors said it was his most enjoyable season in Utah playing for a team that “exceeded expectations.”

With the Jazz on the rise and the environment strong, Favors admitted that the franchise would be tough to leave. He said if Utah offers him a “good situation that fits” perfectly, he would likely re-sign quickly.

“I really do enjoy being out there,” Favors said. “I enjoyed all of my teammates. I enjoy the organization, the front office and the coaching staff. I love everything about Utah.

“It is definitely a business. There might be a situation where I do have to leave. It would be tough. But you have to put yourself in the right situation, because the teams are going to do that for themselves, too. You just have to find the right situation.”

While Favors has a lot of basketball left in him, he is already beginning to prepare himself for life after the NBA.

Last week, Favors attended the NBA Career Crossover program in New York City. The program educates and exposes players to potential careers after basketball. Favors spent some time talking to a real estate firm to educate himself more on the business, but he’s still uncertain what post-NBA career path he will take. The third overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft also spoke to the top players in the 2018 NBA draft.

Favors also hopes to give back to the Atlanta neighborhood in which he grew up.

“I’m definitely looking for things to do after basketball is done,” Favors said. “I’m starting that process. And I’m going to start getting involved in the community and the kids in Atlanta and try to start something in the next two years. I’m definitely going to get involved.

“It’s a little area I grew up on the Southside part of Atlanta, an area called Cleveland Avenue. Some of the youth over there need to see and hear something different. I want to speak to them and let them know, ‘I came from the same neighborhood y’all come from and went through the same things and struggles. The same things that are going through your mind, I’ve been there, too.’ I just want to encourage them.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.