Except for a harrowing eight-hour bus ride through a snowstorm, Utah Jazz guard Kevin Murphy considers his experience in the NBA Development League a positive one.
Murphy, a second-round draft pick from Tennessee Tech, spent six weeks with the Reno Bighorns. He averaged 13.2 points and 3.1 rebounds before being recalled Jan. 8.
“He has matured, man,” coach Tyrone Corbin said prior to Monday’s practice. “He has a better understanding of the things we talked to him about. ... I think it was a great thing for him.”
Specifically, Corbin sees improvement in Murphy’s conditioning, his defense, his ability to read opposing defenses and his understanding of how to get himself open.
“That’s part of the maturity process all young guys have to go through,” Corbin said. “You can talk and talk and talk about it. But at some point they have get on the court, see it and go through it.”
Said Murphy: “I thought it went pretty good. I need to get better and I got a chance to play — to play in games. Because I wasn’t playing a lot up here, it helped me.”
As a senior at Tennessee Tech, he averaged 20.6 points and five rebounds.
In a game against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Murphy scored 50 points — the most by a Division I player during the 2011-12 season.
A major reason the Jazz drafted Murphy was his shooting ability. But if he’s going to enjoy a long NBA career, his game must expand.
When the Jazz sent him to Reno, general manager Dennis Lindsey said, “We don’t want him to be a ‘pig’ scorer. Our evaluation of him is not going to be, ‘You go score 40 points, we’re bringing you back to the Jazz.’ ”
The 22-year-old Murphy understood.
“I wanted to go there and do what [Corbin] wanted me to do and what Dennis wanted me to do,” he said. “I tried to be a team player — a guy who works hard, hustles and plays hard every play.”
Murphy got into only three of the Jazz’s first 15 games. He played a total of 11 minutes before being sent to the D-League.
“There’s always a little disappointment — leaving the team — and I think he was a little disappointed ,” Corbin said. “But I also think he was excited about getting a chance to play and grow. ... We tried to make him understand it wasn’t a demotion.”
For Murphy, the most difficult aspect to the transition was leaving his wife and 6-week-old son in Utah.
“It was pretty hard to be away from my family,” he said. “But we understand it’s what I have to do right now. So it was cool.”
Murphy’s worst time in the D-League came during a snowy bus ride between Reno and Boise.
It was a little less luxurious than the chartered air travel in the NBA.
“A humbling experience for me,” Murphy said. “Coming [to Utah] for a couple of months and then going to the D-League — seeing how things work there — you become real humble.”
• The Jazz selected Kevin Murphy with the 47th overall pick of the 2012 NBA draft.
• Murphy was sent to Reno in the D-League on Nov. 26. He was recalled Jan. 8.
• With the Bighorns, Murphy averaged, 13.2 points and 3.1 rebounds in 28.6 minutes.
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