Less than 48 hours after learning he had been traded from Cleveland to Utah, Kyle Korver stepped on the floor on Friday for the first time as a Jazzman in 2018, and immediately hit a three just 12 seconds after entering the game.
But to get Korver to that point was a mammoth undertaking by a team of behind-the-scenes individuals working together to make it possible to put him in a Jazz uniform so quickly, and to set Korver up with a future in Utah for the rest of the season. Here’s how it all happened:
Like most players do, Korver was taking a pregame nap before his Cleveland Cavaliers — the team with the worst record in the NBA — were to face the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. That’s when he got the news: “I woke up from my pregame nap with a bunch of missed phone calls from my GM and my agent, and I was like 'well, something happened!’”
That Korver was traded wasn’t a huge shock to him. Given the Cavaliers were no longer a contending franchise after the departure of LeBron James, Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman had been upfront with Korver, letting him know it was very likely he was going to be traded to the highest bidder at some point before the trade deadline.
But to Korver, the destination was important to him. So he submitted a list of teams to Altman, teams where Korver had family or friends waiting, or places he was comfortable with moving. One of those teams was the Jazz; as he said when he was a free agent in 2013, “I have a lot of respect for the organization, and it’s just a great place to live life and play basketball.” Altman, though, was under no obligation to trade Korver to someone on his list of teams, but Korver is glad he did.
“They were mindful of that, they really were,” Korver said. “I’m grateful for Koby Altman and the management of the Cavs for that.”
Meanwhile, Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey broke the news to the other player involved in the trade — swingman Alec Burks — personally, as he always makes it a priority to do. The Jazz were in Brooklyn, and Burks was already at the arena. Lindsey had a phone already connected with Burks' agent after the conversation, so they could talk about what his opportunity would look like in a Cavaliers uniform. Next, his agent connected him with Cavaliers management.
“Opportunity is everything in this league,” Burks told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I feel like I have a great one here. Just trying to take advantage of it and help my new team win.”
Later, Burks entered the Jazz’s locker room and told his teammates — leaving them in a state of shock, according to multiple players.
What happened next
From there, a dizzying maze of logistics had to be considered. First, there was the travel, which needed to be booked immediately to move the players as quickly as possible. Burks, for example, left the Barclays Center just an hour after learning he had been traded — a half hour before he was slated to play against the Nets — to catch a flight to Cleveland. Since the Jazz planned to head directly to the airport after the game, Burks had already packed his bags.
For Korver, things were even more complicated: He wanted to return to Cleveland to break the news to his family personally. Korver has a wife, Juliet, and three kids: a daughter (age 6), and two boys (ages four and two). By the time he arrived in Cleveland, the kids were already asleep. After a night of planning, talking and not much sleeping, Korver told his kids the news when they woke up the next morning.
“Most of the time, when you move somewhere, you get to think about it for a while. You probably get to choose where you want to go. You have to get your family ready; you get to write out your list of pluses and minuses," Korver said. "The NBA is a wonderful job in a lot of ways. But living stability, knowing you’re going to be somewhere for however long, it’s not one of them.”
Korver then immediately boarded a flight that the Jazz had booked for him to fly to Charlotte, N.C. Korver arrived in Charlotte at about 4 p.m. Thursday. While he was in the air, the Jazz and Cavaliers completed the trade call with the NBA, allowing both teams to send out the press release with the news.
That didn’t mean the trade was completed, though. Both players still had to undergo physicals, and Korver’s took a couple of hours. After a whirlwind day, he was in the Ritz-Carlton in Charlotte by 7:30 p.m with the rest of his new team. The next morning, Jazz executives obtained the “trade certificate” from the league that permitted Korver to participate in the team’s shootaround at 11 a.m.
“We’re counting minutes here, and everything’s critical,” Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said. “Credit goes to [Jazz director of basketball operations] Steven Schwartz on our end to usher all of that through and expedite it.”
Jazz equipment manager Adam Klauke had an important job, too: making Korver’s uniform. On every trip, Klauke carries a blank jersey to be used in cases such as this. Klauke asked Korver what number he’d like to use, then set to work adding the stitching of Korver’s name and number to the uniform itself. (On one occasion, Klauke didn’t have enough time to add the name to a blank uniform for an emergency signing, which meant the player played in a nameless uniform that night.)
Klauke also needed to know which shoes Korver was going to wear, so he contacted Korver and got his shoe model, size, and color preferences. Korver wears Nike, which immediately shipped the favorite shoe and color Korver preferred, and that matched his new team’s colors. All of the team gear that the Jazz use, from travel suits to extra t-shirts, was also shipped to the Jazz in Charlotte.
Considerations big and small
All of the above got Korver in a Jazz uniform and eligible to play. But there were so many other items to consider, which the Jazz’s front office helped out with behind the scenes.
Linda Luchetti, Jazz VP of basketball operations, directed the onboarding process for new players from a off-court perspective. Among other things, Luchetti had a buffet of housing options for Korver and his family around Salt Lake City that they could move into on a moment’s notice. Luchetti also had a small list of public and private schooling options set up for Korver and his family to choose from, along with the plusses and minuses of each. Korver’s family will likely stay in Cleveland through December while their daughter finishes up her first semester of kindergarten, then move to SLC.
“They’ve been great,” Korver said. “There’s a lot of steps to get my family there, and a lot of things to do.”
But the Jazz still wanted to help Burks' family out as well. So even beyond connecting Burks' family to Luchetti’s equivalent in Cleveland, Luchetti worked to help Burks' fiance and baby with their transition of out of Salt Lake City. For example, the Jazz picked up the car Burks left at Salt Lake City airport, and sent it on it’s way to Cleveland. (The Jazz also have left Korver a car at the airport for him to use when he arrives in Utah on Sunday night.)
In Charlotte, Korver had to take his new Jazz headshot, used for Jazz promotional materials, in-arena graphics, and on the Jazz broadcast. All of these are created by separate Jazz marketing and broadcast employees. His jersey wasn’t yet completed, but luckily, the headshots are just taken from the shoulders up. Korver, surprised by the headshot request, hadn’t yet quite done his hair to his liking.
Media had to be handled, too. The Jazz first set Korver up an interview with Jazz broadcast TV, then another with the team website, then another with the assembled media at shootaround.
Name tags were created for Korver’s locker at the Zions Bank Basketball Center and at Vivint Smart Home Arena. On Friday, Korver’s locker tag was simpler: his name and number written on some athletic tape.
In the midst of all of that, Korver had to learn everything about his new team on the court.
First, there were the plays. The Jazz carry around their current playbook on iPads for situations like this, but they know that it’s tough to expect Korver to learn all of it right away, especially with everything else going on.
“You can download a playbook into an iPad, but you can’t do it into someone’s brain, no matter how smart of a player you are, without creating indecision and hesitancy,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “You can’t lose the forest through the trees.”
And Korver also had to learn the team’s language, on both offense and defense.
“I had Quin for a year in Atlanta, and really respect his mind for the game,” Korver said. “He’s created all of this terminology that’s unique, as is he,” he smiled.
Finally, there was learning the personnel he would be playing with: their tendencies, where they want the ball, how they fit as pieces in the offense and defense. Overall, Korver says he knew what was going on about “25 percent” of the time during Friday night’s win over the Hornets. And despite all of what he’d been through in the the previous 48 hours, Korver’s 14 points and 5-7 shooting was a key part in the victory.
After that, Korver took his baggage and boarded the Jazz’s charter flight to Miami, arriving after midnight in Florida, following a day he thought he’d be in Boston, where the Cavaliers played Friday.
“The NBA is crazy, man,” he said.
JAZZ VS. HEAT
At American Airlines Arena, Miami
Tipoff • Sunday, 4 p.m. MST
TV • ATTSN
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 11-12; Heat 8-13
Last meeting • Heat 103, Jazz 102 (Jan. 7)
About the Jazz • They are healthy, which put Georges Niang and Tony Bradley on the inactive list on Friday’s contest... Dante Exum earned the first DNP-CD of his season after Raul Neto seemingly surpassed him in the Jazz’s point guard rotation... Rudy Gobert has had two consecutive games with four blocks
About the Heat • Goran Dragic Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters, and Derrick Jones all missed the Heat’s Friday game with various injuries... 25-year-old Josh Richardson is the Heat’s leading scorer this year with 20 points per game... 37-year-old Dwayne Wade has scored 18 in his last two contests