Kragthorpe: Jazz's DeMarre Carroll hopes this is just the start
DeMarre Carroll just kept playing.
In one of those games that defined the Jazz's season, Carroll stayed on the court for all but a few seconds of three overtime periods in mid-April, helping his team outlast Dallas.
This was not so much a case of Carroll coming out of nowhere, but more like a discovery that he was already here. Suddenly, a forward who had appeared in only 10 of the first 32 games since joining the team in February was becoming a vital part of the Jazz's playoff push, a player who belonged out there.
"It's been amazing," Carroll was saying Thursday night, when the Jazz were concluding their regular season and looking ahead to Sunday's playoff opener at San Antonio.
The convergence of factors that made Carroll a starter for a playoff qualifier includes his being waived by Denver in early February, signing with the Jazz and â¦ waiting â¦ waiting â¦ waiting â¦ for a chance that may never have come if not for injuries to forwards Josh Howard and C.J. Miles.
Somehow, Carroll stayed ready, through some combination of counsel from veteran guard Jamaal Tinsley and his own appreciation of life in the NBA. "It's a blessing to be able to play the game again," Carroll said. "I cherish every opportunity I get. That's what I kept telling myself every day: Be a true professional, no matter what."
What's next for Carroll is uncertain. Now that Howard is healthy, he may return to the starting lineup at some point in the Jazz-Spurs series. That would complete Carroll's season cycle. He had hoped to sign with the Jazz before the season started in December, but they landed Howard instead. So Carroll eagerly came to Utah in February, even if that meant being inactive for long stretches of the schedule or not playing even when dressed for games.
But when Howard was hurt, the Jazz found out what they had in Carroll. His game is hardly glamorous, but what else would you expect from someone who's proud of his "Junkyard Dog" nickname? Even in Thursday's basically meaningless win over Portland, Carroll was diving into the crowd after loose balls.
"He's been a great addition for us," said coach Tyrone Corbin. "We're still discovering parts of his game."
The breakthrough was that triple-overtime battle with Dallas. In the previous game, Carroll had bumped heads with teammate Derrick Favors. He needed medical clearance of concussion symptoms and some dental work just to play that night. The game kept going, and so did Carroll.
After returning to the court late in regulation, he stayed there for all but nine seconds of the final 17:25, counting the extra periods. His totals: 44 minutes, 15 points, six assists, four rebounds.
That's one of several tough victories that eventually sent the Jazz into the playoffs, and they would not have won it without him.
So this pro basketball odyssey continues for Carroll, originally drafted by Memphis late in the first round in 2009. He played 71 games for the Grizzlies as a rookie, then was traded to Houston last season and appeared in a total of only 12 NBA games, while spending time in the D-League outpost of Bismarck, N.D.
The Rockets waived him last April, then he played in only four games for Denver this season before joining the Jazz.
And now? "Basically starting for a playoff team is amazing," he said.
His averages of 4.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in 20 games (nine starts) are modest, but his NBA career clearly is rejuvenated. For nearly three months, Carroll's coming to the Jazz seemed like just another dead end. Turns out, it's a start.