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Utah Jazz: Derrick Favors key in loaded frontcourt as Utah opens camp

Forward Favors a key piece of loaded frontcourt as Utah opens camp.

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While other Utah Jazz players Monday told of summer vacations to Jamaica and Spain, and joked about Twitter accounts, Derrick Favors carried an air of seriousness.

At media day, the official getting-to-know-you of the NBA season for the new-look Jazz, the No. 3 pick in the 2010 draft was jovial and outgoing when talking about his offseason training and Enes Kanter’s Twitter behavior. But when asked to address his role or the competition for the starting power forward spot, Favors got quiet again, deferring as he often did in his first season-and-a-half with the Jazz.

At a glance

Paul Millsap vs. Derrick Favors

Season statistics, 2011

Player Min. P/G PPG RPG

Millsap 32.8 16.6 8.8

Favors 21. 2 8.8 6.5

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"That’s up to Coach," Favors said.

Which means Tyrone Corbin has some big decisions to make with his 21-year-old emerging star. On a team with several positions up for grabs, no starting role is expected to be more contested in Jazz training camp, which starts Tuesday, than power forward.

Incumbent starter Paul Millsap is in a contract year and was considered an All-Star snub last season. Favors, however, was the centerpiece in the trade that sent Deron Williams to the then-New Jersey Nets two seasons ago, and is considered one of the building blocks for the Jazz.

"With Derrick being who he is, being an extreme talent, he pushes me and motivates me every day," Millsap said. "I do the same for him. That’s the good thing about it. Practices are very competitive. We’re learning from each other, which is good."

Millsap said Monday that he would "absolutely" like to re-sign with Utah. It raises, however, the question of how the Jazz can commit to both Millsap and Favors.

The Jazz have been down a similar road before, although in a different era. In 1986, the Jazz traded starting forward Adrian Dantley, a future Hall of Famer, to make way for Karl Malone, who was entering his third season in Utah.

Millsap, the sixth-year player who was the No. 47 pick in the 2006 draft, was offered an extension by the Jazz over the summer, but opted to explore free agency after this season.

First-year general manager Dennis Lindsey said he looks at the depth in the frontcourt, which includes Al Jefferson and Kanter, as a strength, rather than a glut.

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"I think there’s enough playing time and opportunity for all of them," he said, "as we saw last year. I think Ty did a terrific job of establishing those roles on who does what and when. Derrick is one of four."

Favors averaged 8.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in 21 minutes per game last season, but saw an increase in time and productivity in the first-round playoff series against San Antonio.

Favors spent the offseason training with Team USA in the run-up to the London Olympics. Along with teammate Gordon Hayward, he competed on the Select Team that practiced against the team that eventually won a gold medal at the Summer Games.

"The main thing I took from it," Favors said, "[is] I’ve got to work harder. Those guys out there work hard, and if I want to be at their level, I’ve got to work a lot harder than I work now."

Lindsey, who previously served as assistant general manager in San Antonio, said he had measured goals for Favors. He said Favors should use his effectiveness from a year ago "as a springboard."

"We’ll see very good basketball from him this year," Lindsey said. "But frankly I don’t think we’ll see his best basketball because he is so young. Each year you grow, and Derrick’s growing by the moment and we’ve seen growth this summer. In regards to the starting, the time, the team will have to sort itself out."


Twitter: @oramb

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