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Utah Jazz: Diante Garrett following father’s NBA footsteps

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(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz point guard Diante Garrett (8) controls the ball as the Utah Jazz host the Phoenix Suns, NBA Basketball in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, February 26, 2014.

By Aaron Falk

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Mar 04 2014 09:10AM
Updated Mar 5, 2014 04:18PM

Milwaukee • For more than a decade, Dick Garrett has worked as an usher at Milwaukee Bucks games, patrolling his spot in the lower bowl of the Harris Bradley Center, just across from the home team’s bench.

But on Monday night, he was off the clock — and rooting for the visitors.

The game itself was lopsided, a 114-88 blowout loss for the Utah Jazz. Nevertheless, Garrett beamed as he watched his son, Jazz point guard Diante Garrett, play in his hometown for the first time as a professional.

"It’s hard to put into words how proud I am of him," Dick Garrett said. "I know how hard he works. I know how much he wanted this. To see him succeed and be where he is now is really fulfilling."

Basketball has always been a bond between father and son. The elder Garrett played five seasons in the NBA, from 1969-1974, beginning his career with the Los Angeles Lakers and finishing with the Milwaukee Bucks. After the NBA, Garrett worked for 28 years as a sales rep for the Miller Brewing Company, but his love was always for basketball. So when he retired, he found a part-time gig that would let him watch the game.

Diante Garrett wasn’t allowed to tag along with his father to work too often. There was always practice in the evenings and school the next morning. But when he did go, he stood in the hallways of the arena, looking up wide-eyed at the basketball superstars as they walked past him.

Meanwhile, the ex-pro at home was "just Pops to me," Diante Garrett said.

He watched film from his father’s playing days, teasing him about the short shorts he wore. He went head-to-head with his old man during countless games of one-on-one in the driveway, until he reached high school and got too big and too fast for the elder Garrett.

At that point, Dick Garrett only challenged his son to H-O-R-S-E.

"I wished I could have had the ball-handling," the father said with a grin. "But I also wish he could shoot like I could."

When his son had a 5-inch growth spurt between his sophomore and junior years, Dick Garrett knew he’d have a chance at a basketball future beyond Milwaukee’s Harold S. Vincent High School.

Diante Garrett left home for four seasons at Iowa State, where he became the Cyclones’ all-time leader in games played and earned All-Big 12 Second Team honors in 2011. After going undrafted, Garrett’s pro career took him to Croatia and France before returning stateside.

Diante Garrett spent last season with the Phoenix Suns, though he was used only sparingly. When the Suns visited Milwaukee, he dressed but did not get into the game. He was let go by Phoenix and spent preseason with Oklahoma City before being cut in October.

All the while, his father encouraged him to be patient and keep working.

Someone would take notice.

With the NBA season already underway, Garrett was in Iowa, preparing for another stint with the D-League. He was in a Walmart, buying groceries for his apartment when his agent called him. The Utah Jazz had taken notice.

His first day in Utah, before he’d ever practiced with the team or even gone through a shootaround, Garrett was thrust into duty. He scored seven points and dished five assists, playing down the stretch as the Jazz beat the New Orleans Pelicans to snap a 0-8 start to the season.

Since then, he’s developed into the Jazz’s second point guard, averaging 3.6 points and 2 assists in 49 appearances this season.

"He deserves it," Jazz coach Ty Corbin said. "It’s not given to him. He deserves the minutes he’s getting on the floor. I’m extremely happy for a guy like that. I always root for the guys that come in and have to work their way through things."

On Monday night with his father and family watching, Garrett scored two points, his only bucket coming on a fast-break layup. He handed out three assists, including a first-half alley-oop to Jeremy Evans.

On Wednesday night, the Bucks will host the Sacramento Kings and Dick Garrett will be back at work. But when he’s finished with his shift, he’ll head home and turn on the TV to watch the Jazz and Wizards on DVR.

Afterward, the proud father will have some more words of encouragement.

"We always talk," Diante Garrett said. "After the game, I’m expecting a call or a voicemail or a text message or something from him."

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