The feeling is familiar to Diante Garrett.
It is yet another offseason of uncertainty for Utah’s backup point guard. He is back in his hometown of Milwaukee, not knowing whether the Jazz intend to pick up the option on his contract for next year. He will work out with old neighborhood friends Wes Matthews and Dwight Buycks. He’ll wait for his agent to call and tell him whether he has a real NBA home for the first time, or if he needs to keep it moving.
“The team just told me to work hard through the summer,” Garrett said. “So I’ll be ready one way or another, whenever I get a call.”
This has been the story of Diante Garrett’s professional basketball life — a point guard looking to stick on a roster.
It was a little different this past season, however. Garrett played almost a full year with the Jazz, backing up Trey Burke, averaging 3.7 points and 1.8 assists per game. He’s had very good moments. Most will agree that he proved that he can play at the NBA level.
But has Garrett done enough to find his way back to Salt Lake City next year? A lot will depend on the coming months and what the Jazz roster will look like.
There’s a chance that the Jazz will bring in Brazilian point guard Raul Neto next season. Utah received his rights in a draft-night deal last year, then watched him impress in the Orlando Summer League.
There also is a chance that the Jazz will draft another point guard in June. The team has three of the top 35 picks and will look at every option to bolster one of the thinnest rosters in the league in terms of overall talent.
Although Utah has historically carried three point guards on the roster, there’s a good chance that Garrett will still have to fight for a job. Or, the Jazz can pick up his option for next season. If that happens, the speculation goes away.
“For as much as I’ve gone through, the one thing I realize is that as hard as it is to make the NBA, it’s that much harder to stay in the NBA,” Garrett said. “I know that I got better as the year went on, and I thought I did a pretty good job. I got stronger, I got more experienced and I was able to get guys in the right spots on the floor.”
Garrett went through bouts of indecision, like most point guards getting their first real shot at playing time do. At times he struggled with his shooting. At times he struggled with the offense and the schemes.
But he showed promise as well. He established himself as a good defender, with his size — 6-foot-4 — his long arms and his athleticism on the perimeter. He provided the Jazz with a different look at the point guard spot when Burke was on the bench. He showed the ability to score, and even played with Burke in the same backcourt at times.
Throughout the season, Garrett and Burke were mentored by John Lucas III — who settled into the Earl Watson role as veteran backup. At times, Lucas was rough on the younger point guards in practice settings. He tried to impart wisdom whenever he could. Lucas III — a seven-year vet — did his best to make the transition to the league smoother for both.
“I know that with us going young and preparing for the future that it was my job to not let the guys drift off,” Lucas III said. “My mentality was to come to practice and destroy the other point guards. But that was my mentality because I wanted to show that the way you practice is the way you play in the game. I thought we made each other better.”
Garrett said he wants to make Utah his NBA home. He will likely play with the team in the upcoming Las Vegas Summer League. By then, he will be close to knowing whether the team intends to pick up his option or not.
For now, Garrett works on his game in Milwaukee. He plans on shooting 500 jumpers a day, working on his quickness and in general improving his overall skill-set.
But this offseason has a different feel, a new kind of confidence. For the first time in his professional life, Diante Garrett knows he can play in the NBA.
Diante Garrett file
Played four years at Iowa State
Played overseas for a season, in Croatia and France
Broke into the NBA with the Phoenix Suns and the Oklahoma City Thunder
Played most of the 2013-2014 season with the Utah Jazz
Is the son of former NBA guard Dick Garrett