DeMarre Carroll wants to come back to Utah.
Carroll is one of nine Jazz players without a contract heading into the off-season. But he made it clear Thursday he'd like to return to the team that has given him his best chance to blossom as an NBA player.
In 66 games this season, Carroll averaged six points and 2.8 rebounds in 16.8 minutes.
Often referring to himself as the Junkyard Dog, Carroll's personality, hustle and hard work on the court have endeared himself to Utah fans and, perhaps, management.
"I'm a Utah Jazz until they don't want me," Carroll said. "If I got the same offer and the same contract and all that, I'd be back. I love it here. I think I've built something here. The Junkyard Dog don't want to go anywhere because the dog pound is here. ... So we'll see."
The Jazz signed Carroll during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season and he played sparingly. But Carroll established himself this season, which ended with Wednesday night's 86-70 loss at Memphis.
"For me, it was a great season," Carroll said. "This is the best season I've had since I've been in the NBA. I think I showed I'm a rotation player. ... I'm more hungry than I've ever been."
The Jazz are Carroll's fourth NBA team and, he believes, management likes what he brings to the table.
"They love me, like my fans do," he said. "They appreciate all my hard work and everything I did. They said I improved my jumper and they really appreciated that. They just want me to continue to get better -- don't get content just because I had some success. Keep getting better and have more success."
Asked why he's become a fan favorite, Carroll said, "I think [they] love me because of how hard I play. Every time I step on the court, I try as hard as I can. My quote is always, 'Hard work is a talent.' ... Mo [Williams] and Randy [Foye] can shoot a three form anywhere. Al [Jefferson] can throw in that hook. Me, I play hard. That's my talent."
What are Carroll's plans for the summer?
"Just get better," he said. "That's my whole mindset. I'm going to get film of guys like Bruce Bowen and come back even better -- be a knockdown three-point shooter from the corner. Just be better. More hungry."
Carroll suggests fans in Utah enjoy the off-season of roster uncertainty, not dread it.
"I think it's a great summer for Jazz basketball," he said. "They want people who want to be here. They don't want people who don't want to be here."
-- Steve Luhm
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