The time has come to see how the Utah Jazz measure up. It’s not the points that count this time, it’s the inches.
The NBA instilled a new rule this season that teams must verify players’ heights via their team physician. The rule, intended to improve the league’s transparency, ends a long-standing practice of inflating — or at times deflating — players’ heights that pervades every level of the game from pee-wee leagues to the top tier.
Per the NBA, heights must be verified by the end of the first week of training camp, which begins Tuesday for the Jazz.
“You lose money if you don’t have these inches, so I’m going to grow every inch can,” Georges Niang, a power forward who has been listed at 6-foot-8, said in jest while trying to spike his hair during the team’s media day Monday.
Mike Conley apparently got the league’s memo. The guard, who is listed at 6-1, showed up for media day with his hair pulled back in a tall bun.
“Look at that thing on top of his head,” teammate Joe Ingles said. “He gained about six inches.”
Ingles won’t get a height assist from his own short-cropped ’do. But perhaps he grew over the summer, as the Australian claimed he’s 6-9, an inch taller than his listed height throughout his professional playing career.
Other Jazzmen might also not be on the level when it comes to their published height. In particular, the stature of star guard Donovan Mitchell, who has been listed at 6-3, came into question. At the NBA Draft combine in 2017, Mitchell measured 6-3 in shoes but 6-1 1/4 in socks, which will be the NBA standard.
“He said he was about 6-4 yesterday,” said 6-10 center Ed Davis. “I think it was ’cause of his hair.”
Dallas Mavericks guard JJ Barea, who has long been listed at 6 feet, measured 5-10 in his socks, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reported Monday. Others are sure to join Barea in shrinking. Among the most likely candidates are Golden State forward/center Draymond Green, who is generously listed at 6-7, and Boston Celtics point guard Kemba Walker, who has spent almost 10 years in the NBA being listed at 6-1.
A few players in the league actually stand to grow a few inches. Most notable among them is Kevin Durant. Durant has spent his career — first with Oklahoma City, then with Golden State and now with Brookyln — being listed at 6-9 when he is more likely taller than 7 feet. Like Kevin Garnett, who was listed at 6-11 but stood closer to 7-1, the versatile guard may have preferred to be listed as smaller to avoid being pigeon-holed as a center.
Yet when a player is winning NBA Finals MVP trophies, as Durant did in 2017 and ’18, or putting up 23 points, 4.2 assists and more than one block per game, as Mitchell is averaging, does it really matter what the roster says? Veteran Jeff Green, a forward listed at 6-9, said he thinks not.
“I don’t think it really matters, to be honest with you,” he said. “We’ll see what height Kevin Durant really is. I think that’s what everybody wants to see.”
Or, maybe they do matter. Life is a game of inches, after all, and, in the words of the great Vince Lombardi, inches make the champion.