It was already an emotional experience for members of the Jazz when they faced former teammates Alec Burks and Rodney Hood two weeks ago in Cleveland for the first time since each had been traded to the Cavaliers in separate deals.
Facing them Friday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena will present an altogether different dynamic — especially for the two returning players.
Burks, who was dealt in late November in exchange for 3-point specialist Kyle Korver, acknowledged dealing with a wave of conflicting feelings.
“Not really thoughts — emotions, just memories,” he said. “I was there 7 1/4 years. All the people I met, the relationships — that’s probably the most that I’m thinking about.”
Hood, meanwhile, who was sent away last Feb. 8 as part of a three-team deadline deal that brought Jae Crowder to Utah, said that enough time had passed now that he was at peace with it.
“It’s all positive because it feels like it’s been so long since I’ve been there,” Hood said. “… I think about all the good times I had playing when I was in Utah and playing with those guys.”
That said, both players conceded that being traded from the Jazz took them by surprise.
Burks said he was taken aback when, shortly before the Jazz were to play the Nets in Brooklyn, coach Quin Snyder and general manager Dennis Lindsy broke the news to him.
“At the time, I was shocked. I had never been traded before, I didn’t know it was going to happen,” he said. “[They told me] I was going to get to get traded, who I was getting traded for, where I was going. They let me say my goodbyes to my teammates — my former teammates. That was pretty much it.”
Hood, meanwhile, recalled being not so much shocked as crestfallen with the way things worked in Utah. With Gordon Hayward having departed for Boston the previous summer, the Jazz had begun the 2017-18 season with some thought that Hood might take over as the featured scorer. But it didn’t work out that way.
Still, he said that the time since has given him perspective and a nuanced outlook.
“I wouldn’t say hard feelings; it was kind of a letdown. That’s all I knew. As an NBA player, being there 3 1/2 years, had my first son there, I got married when I was playing for Utah,” Hood said. “Quin gave me a chance, Dennis Lindsey gave me a chance to excel as a young player in this league, so I’m very appreciative. Just because something ends doesn’t mean it has to be negative.”
Both players said they’re still close with many in the organization; each specifically mentioned staying in contact with Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale, and Ekpe Udoh. Hood also said he maintained contact with Rudy Gobert, plus assistant coaches Johnnie Bryant and Tony Lang. Burks said he also still talks to Crowder, and that Dante Exum reached out to him before the teams’ Jan. 4 matchup.
Several with the Jazz made it known that the feelings of continued respect were mutual.
“I love both of them. … They’re both great guys,” said Gobert. “I spent almost six years with AB here, a little less with Rodney, but I always had a great relationship with them, especially off the court. Just two guys I really like.”
Snyder, meanwhile, noted that while the team has obviously made it work with Crowder and Korver, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have mixed feelings about dealing away Burks and Hood.
“Well, you can be happy with a situation and still miss guys, too” he said “… As much as anything, you appreciate that they gave the program all of themselves, their hearts, in addition to how hard they worked. In Alec’s case, seeing him fight through some adversity from a health standpoint and come out the other side a better player and equally athletic — you still see he’s got all that. And Rodney and I kind of coming in to the Jazz together, and seeing him grow. You want to see those guys continue to have success. … They’re young guys and have bright futures ahead of them.”
They probably have a warm reception at Vivint Arena ahead of them, too.
Both said they were very much looking forward to returning to Salt Lake City for the first time — to visit old haunts, to reconnect with people in the organization, and to interact again with a crowd known for its intense loyalty to its players.
Asked what kind of reception he expected, Hood replied, “I hope good, I hope good. I had some good years there. Obviously in the NBA, you’re going to have some times where things don’t go as well, but I did some things in the community, I was a good guy, and I had a good 3 1/2 years there. Hope it’s a good reaction. Regardless of how that goes, it will be good to go back and see the city again and see some familiar faces.”
Burks, meanwhile, never known for being particularly loquacious, spoke perhaps most passionately about his certainty that Jazz fans would come correct.
“I think I’m getting a lot of love. Fans showed me a lot of love out there. I think I’ll get a good cheer or something,” he said. “I had real relationships with people outside of the gym — fans, people in the community, ushers, people that park cars. I know a lot of people there.”
JAZZ VS. CAVALIERS
At Vivint Smart Home Arena
Tipoff • Friday, 7 p.m.
TV • AT&T SportsNet
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 25-21, Cavaliers 9-36
Last meeting • Jazz, 117-91 (Jan. 4)
About the Jazz • After Wednesday’s win vs. the Clippers, Utah is on a season-high five-game winning streak. … Donovan Mitchell is the first Jazz player since Karl Malone in 1999-2000 to score 25 or more points in seven consecutive games. … Rudy Gobert is the first Jazz player since Malone in 1988 to have back-to-back games of 20-plus rebounds.
About the Cavaliers • Former Jazzmen Alec Burks and Rodney Hood will be playing in Utah for the first time since being traded to Cleveland. … Hood is averaging 13.0 ppg this season and shooting 37.1 percent on 3-pointers. Burks was averaging 8.4 ppg in 15.8 mpg with the Jazz this season, but has bumped those numbers to 11.9 ppg in 28.9 mpg with the Cavs. … All-Star forward Kevin Love has played just four games this season due to left toe surgery.