Kragthorpe: Malcolm Thomas must overcome Jazz’s No. 22 curse
NBA • Jersey number has an inauspicious history with Utah franchise
Published: January 27, 2014 09:12AM
Updated: January 28, 2014 05:44PM
image
Kurt Kragthorpe

Newly acquired forward Malcolm Thomas is an intriguing addition to the Jazz roster, evoking memories of San Diego State’s battles with Jimmer Fredette’s BYU teams in the Mountain West.

But to succeed with the Jazz, Thomas will have to overcome a curse, based on his jersey number. Ever since the Jazz moved to Salt Lake City, players wearing No. 22 have experienced all kinds of problems, generally resulting in short stints with the team.

Thomas wore No. 22 in a brief stint with Golden State last season. He wore No. 4 at San Diego State and No. 24 in San Antonio. But the Jazz have retired No. 4 for Adrian Dantley, and Paul Millsap’s No. 24 still has some sentimental attachment.

So he’s back in No. 22, subjecting himself to this history:

• A member of the original Utah Jazz starting five in 1979, forward Bernard King scored 19,655 points in his NBA career. Only 176 of those came in a Jazz uniform, before King was charged with felony sexual assault and suspended by the team — indefinitely, which turned into the last three months of the season. He was traded to Golden State and eventually enjoyed much success in the league, wearing No. 30.

• Point guard Carl Nicks joined the team in the middle of the ‘80-81 season and played regularly through the next season. Even with Adrian Dantley and Darrell Griffith in the lineup, Nicks and the Jazz endured an 18-game losing streak. Nicks soon was out of the NBA.

• Forward John Drew arrived in ‘82 from Atlanta in a trade for Dominique Wilkins’ draft rights, mostly because the Jazz needed cash. Nicknamed “The Deuces,” Drew underwent eight weeks of drug rehabilitation early that season, but returned and contributed to the Midwest Division championship team of ‘83-84, averaging 17.6 points. After a relapse the following December, he was waived.

• Carey Scurry made the team as a second-round pick in ‘85, the year Karl Malone also was drafted. Scurry was waived in the middle of his third season in a move a team official described as “overdue” because of Scurry’s off-court issues.

• No. 22 then became the Jazz’s unofficial temporary uniform. Over several years, Eric White, Henry James, Brooks Thompson and Dave Jamerson appeared in a combined six games for 23 minutes, going 1-for-10 from the floor.

• After a three-year stint in No. 25 with the Jazz, point guard John Crotty wore No. 22 in Detroit and kept it when he returned to Utah in 2000. Crotty shot 33 percent from the field that season and missed 51 games with a knee injury. After going back to No. 25, he delivered the best year of his career.

• In 2002, Curtis Borchardt became the Jazz’s initial first-round draft choice to wear No. 22, promptly missing an entire season with a knee injury. Two years later, he became part of the five-team trade that brought back Greg Ostertag.

• Louis Amundson signed two 10-day contracts with the Jazz in February 2007 but appeared in only one game, for two minutes, and did not record any statistics. Yet in a Tribune interview two years later, he spoke of making two free throws for his first NBA points at EnergySolutions Arena — which never happened.

Amundson has pieced together a decent career since then, covering eight teams over eight seasons. Now wearing No. 17, he plays for New Orleans.

• Morris Almond, who chose No. 22 at Rice University because his birthday is Feb. 2 (2-2) and kept it in Utah, appeared in total of 34 games over two seasons after being the Jazz’s first-round pick in 2007. He briefly resurfaced in the NBA with Washington during the 2011-12 season.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt