Jazz assistant Jeff Hornacek acts as NBA ambassador in Africa
Jeff Hornacek, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo once were fierce rivals on the basketball court. They recorded a combined 64 seasons in the NBA, totaling 66,514 points and earning 27 All-Star appearances, wearing a variety of uniforms but never playing on the same team.
With their competitive days behind them, though, the talented foursome have united to become ambassadors for the game that helped make their names. Joined by ex-professional players Bo Outlaw and Dee Brown, the former NBA greats are scheduled to spend four days in Johannesburg, South Africa, participating in the league's Basketball Without Borders program.
Hornacek has long wanted to participate in the event, intrigued by the opportunity to help spread the reach of basketball while encouraging positive social change. The ongoing NBA lockout and the fact that he is temporarily not under contract with the Jazz made this year's offer a no-brainer.
"There are a lot of similarities to life back in the [United States] but there are also a lot of differences," said Hornacek, who started the 2010-11 season as a shooting consultant for Utah and became a full-time assistant after coaches Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson resigned Feb. 10.
Hornacek has also long admired from afar Mutombo's dedication to improving the lives of needy Africans. The ability to reconnect in person with the NBA's No. 2 all-time shot blocker instantly brought a smile to Hornacek's face.
"We talked about his elbow throwing. â¦ To get here and work this camp with those guys is a lot of fun," Hornacek said.
While the ex-Utah sharpshooter's focus is currently centered on giving back to the worldwide community, Hornacek will soon direct his attention toward the future of Jazz basketball. He plans to gather during the coming weeks with coach Tyrone Corbin, assistant Scott Layden and general manager Kevin O'Connor, preparing for the 2011-12 season as if it will start on time.
Hornacek acknowledged that Corbin could make changes to Jazz offensive and defensive systems long defined by Sloan and Johnson, but conceded that nothing is set in stone during the NBA's summer of uncertainty.
"Ty will have ideas that he's looked at since the end of the [season] and how it will fit our players," said Hornacek, who intends to re-sign with Utah once the lockout ends. "Sometimes certain offenses work better with certain guys, and he'll have some ideas on what we need and how we want to do it with this particular group of guys that we have."
Jazz rookie center Enes Kanter recorded 11 points and grabbed five rebounds Thursday during Turkey's 90-61 blowout victory against Great Britain during a EuroBasket 2011 first-round contest in Panevezys, Lithuania. Turkey improved to 2-0, while Kanter is averaging 12.5 points and six rebounds during the tournament. â¦ Former Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko poured in a team-high 20 points Thursday during Russia's 65-58 win over Georgia â¦ Ex-Jazz center Kyrylo Fesenko was limited to zero points on 0-of-1 shooting in just six minutes of action for Ukraine during a 73-64 loss to Russia on Wednesday. â¦ Portland guard Nolan Smith was confirmed Thursday to participate in two upcoming exhibition games hosted by ex-Brigham Young standout Jimmer Fredette. Smith, who starred at Duke, will join Sacramento's Fredette and Charlotte's Kemba Walker on Sept. 21 in Salt Lake City and Sept. 22 in Provo.