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Kurt Kragthorpe: Changing of guard sparks first Jazz victory

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Kurt Kragthorpe

First published Nov 13 2013 10:44PM
Updated Nov 14, 2013 08:36AM

Apparently, locating a point guard at a Wal-Mart in Des Moines and playing opponents with "New Orleans" on their jerseys were all the Jazz needed to avoid making franchise history of the wrong kind.

The Jazz rallied from 16 points behind in the second half Wednesday night to win, 111-105. How did they do it? By benching their starting point guard, relying on a veteran whose biggest contribution supposedly is fulfilling minimum payroll requirements and turning the fourth quarter over to a player who officially joined the team about six hours before tipoff at EnergySolutions Arena.

And here was Diante Garrett, looking at the scoreboard during the closing stretch of his new team’s first victory and wondering what was going on. "Time’s going down, I’m still in the game," Garrett marveled. "I guess I had to keep playing."

Summoned from the Iowa Energy of the NBA Development League, Garrett played 22 minutes and posted seven points and five assists — basically matching the combined averages of John Lucas III (benched at halftime) and Jamaal Tinsley (waived Tuesday) in the Jazz’s eight losses to begin the season.

It would make a better story if Garrett had been stocking shelves at Wal-Mart, in the Iowa tradition of former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner. Instead, he was merely grocery shopping late Monday night when the call came, saying the Jazz were interested in signing him after releasing Tinsley.

Tinsley is a fellow Iowa State alumnus. "Out with the old, in with the new," said Garrett, not as harshly as that sentiment may appear in print.

Improbable? There’s more. The Jazz scored 38 points in the fourth quarter. Richard Jefferson and Gordon Hayward combined for 39 points in the second half, with Hayward dishing a career-high 10 assists in the game. The Jazz made their last four 3-point attempts after having shot 23 percent for the season, until then.

Asked what satisfied him the most, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said, "The ball going in the hole."

That helps, certainly. The sudden offensive success kept the 1974-75 New Orleans Jazz, who lost the franchise’s first 11 games, permanently in the record book.

When Corbin arrived at the arena, a security guard told him, "Tonight’s the night."

It hardly looked that way early in the third quarter. Trailing by 10 points, the Jazz spent barely five minutes in the locker room at halftime, but Corbin made a significant change.

Lucas, whose 0-for-7, zero-assist first half included six 3-point misses, was replaced at the point by Alec Burks — even though Corbin had said pregame that playing two positions "throws his game off."

The Jazz promptly fell behind by 16, causing Corbin to call a timeout and clap his hands three times in disgust as he walked onto the court. "How You Like Me Now?" probably was not the best choice for the timeout music.

Whatever Corbin said worked, though. Jefferson, whose prime value was thought to be an $11 million contract that expires is April, responded in a big way. So did Hayward, who has soldiered through the Jazz’s rough start like no other player.

Garrett, meanwhile, atoned for a critical turnover by assisting Marvin Williams for a 3-pointer that made it 104-100 with 1:22 left. Garrett later wriggled out of trouble and passed to Derrick Favors, who drove for a clinching layup.

So for the moment, I can cease with the comparisons to the ’74-75 New Orleans Jazz, who went through 22 players in that first season.

And for one night, Jazz fans could have fun, while embracing a refreshing, new player — even before Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins arrives in June. The postgame music selection? "All Right Now."

kkragthorpe@sltrib.comTwitter: @tribkurt

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