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Utah Jazz: DeMarre Carroll has been a man of the people while in Utah

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"It’s life, man," Carroll says, "that’s why I always say I’m blessed."

Carroll, the son of a Birmingham pastor, does so in nearly every tweet. "There’s a lot of people out there way worse," he says.

At a glance

Utah Jazz free agents

Al Jefferson, center

Age » 28

Last season » 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, named Western Conference Player of the Week final week of March

2012-13 salary » $15 million

Likelihood he returns to Utah » 40 percent

Paul Millsap, power forward

Age » 28

Last season » Averaged 14.6 points and 7.1 rebounds

2012-13 salary » $7.2 million

Likelihood he returns to Utah » 10 percent

Mo Williams, point guard

Age » 30

Last season » Posted 12.9 points and 6.2 assists per game, missed 32 games due to right thumb surgery

2012-13 salary » $8.5 million

Likelihood he returns to Utah » 20 percent

Randy Foye, combo guard

Age » 29

Last season » Averaged 10.8 points, set team record in 3-pointers made and attempted

2012-13 salary » $2.5 million

Likelihood he returns to Utah » 80 percent

Jamaal Tinsley, point guard

Age » 35

Last season » Averaged 3.5 points and 4.4 assists in 18 minutes per game; went 20-12 as a starter

2012-13 salary » $1.3 million

Likelihood he returns to Utah » 70 percent

Earl Watson, point guard

Age » 34

Last season » Missed first 12 games due to offseason knee surgery, averaged 2 points and 4 assists

2012-13 salary » $2 million

Likelihood he returns to Utah » 10 percent

DeMarre Carroll, small forward

Age » 26

Last season » Averaged 6 points in 17 minutes per game, started 12 games

2012-13 salary » $885,000

Likelihood he returns to Utah » 80 percent

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Carroll sees it as his job to make them feel a little better.

"He’s a unique guy in a special way," Watson says. "In a positive way."

Ticketholders show up at games wearing No. 3 Carroll jerseys they custom order.

"See how they do me?" Carroll asks. "I’m a fan favorite. They make their own jerseys."

Back to school » It was an off-day for the Jazz in January when Carroll tweeted: "Was wondering what’s a good high school game to go to in SLC?!?"

That night, nationally ranked Lone Peak, with at least five future Division I players, was on the road at rival Pleasant Grove. Shortly after the game began, school administrators ushered Carroll through a side door.

"Our student section picked up on it," athletic director Nate Johnston said, "and started chanting his name. And then Lone Peak picked up on it and they started chanting his name, too. … I’ve never seen anything like that."

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Carroll sat in the stands behind the Pleasant Grove bench. A police officer stood nearby, but Carroll posed for photos and signed autographs.

NBA players, by nature, are aloof. They cling to what personal life they are allowed. Free time is theirs. Carroll, however, chooses to share his.

Asked why he is this way, Carroll seems confused, as if this is the first time the idea has occurred to him.

Defining the difference » Following a clinic in Monticello, his eighth in three days, he hurtles toward Moab in the tricked-out SUV. He rides shotgun. Nate Martinez, the Junior Jazz coordinator, drives, and in the back seat, controlling the music, is a guy they call Shank.

It is nearly 4 p.m. on a Wednesday, and the self-proclaimed Junkyard Dog’s midday meal was a melted Kit Kat bar. Game 6 of the NBA Finals kept him up late the night before, thanks to the Miami Heat’s fourth-quarter comeback and eventual overtime victory. He has been trying to book a weekend trip to Los Angeles for a wedding, but sporadic cellular service has slowed the effort. To make the trip work, he will have to cancel a commitment to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Salt Lake Bees game.

He has no answer to the question. What makes him different from other NBA stars?

"It’s because you go out," Shank says from the backseat between handfuls of M&Ms. Shank’s real name is Avery Shanklin, and he is Carroll’s cousin. "Other guys don’t interact with the fans. Other guys stay in."

Carroll considers this.

"What do you do after practice?" Carroll wonders aloud. "What do NBA players, what do we got to do? Sit at home? I can’t do that."

Coach Tyrone Corbin says Carroll’s personality is an extension of the way he plays.

"He’s an engaging guy that works extremely hard," Corbin says. "You see the energy that he plays with on the floor. What he gives on the floor is what he gives in the community."

A ‘miserable time’ » In mid-March, with the Jazz in the final push for the playoffs, Corbin moved Carroll from a reserve role to the starting lineup.

While Carroll had one of the best plus-minuses on the roster — a stat that measures a team’s productivity with certain players on the floor — and statistically made the Jazz much better on defense, they lost four of the five games he started. That included the 23-point blowout at Oklahoma City on March 13, the game in which he flattened Durant. Then it was back to the bench. He didn’t play meaningful minutes for nearly three weeks.

"I don’t know how I went back to the bench, man," Carroll said. "Miserable time."

He called it the "most difficult season" of his five-year career.

"In Memphis, I knew I wasn’t going to play," he said, "so I could work hard on my game. Here I could work hard on my game and maybe I’d play, maybe I wouldn’t."

Carroll has watched the free agent market closely. At one point on the drive, he starts firing off thoughts and questions.

"What do you think of Chris Copeland?" he asks. "Will Dwight stay in L.A.?"

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