Derrick Favors’ first regular-season game against Utah Jazz is ‘business as usual’

New Orleans Pelicans forward Derrick Favors (22) shoots over Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)

New Orleans • Asked what Derrick Favors had brought to the team since being traded this past summer, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry started off mentioning his defensive presence and rebounding acumen, before bringing up a characteristic that was a hallmark of the big man’s time in Utah.

“I felt lucky ’cause I think he said his 31st and 32nd words to me today! He’s a quiet guy. He is the most low-maintenance guy I’ve ever coached in my life, really,” Gentry said between laughs. “He just comes in and he does his job, he does it extremely well.”

No one would disagree with that.

Especially Favors himself.

Asked pregame in the home locker room at the Smoothie King Center what he was feeling ahead of his first regular-season matchup against the team he’d spent the previous eight-plus seasons with, he was as typically low-key, reticent and straightforward as ever.

“It’s business as usual. I know they’re gonna come out and play hard,” Favors said. “… I gotta come out here and be ready. And after the game, we can shake hands and hug and all that, but I know they’re gonna come out and try to kick our ass, and especially kick my ass.”

If anything, his former teammates and coaches were the ones feeling emotional about facing him.

Joe Ingles, who developed a symbiotic two-man pick-and-roll relationship with Favors during their time together, spoke of both their on-court chemistry as well as their personal friendship.

“He was great for me — a good friend of mine, and on the court, we kinda connected really well. It took awhile, but we figured it out. He was one of the best bigs I’ve played with in terms of what he did … because I could throw that bounce pass and I knew — I knew it was an assist every time,” Ingles said. “But yeah, on court, off court, an unbelievable guy. Happy to see him again tonight, and it’ll be fun playing against him.”

Coach Quin Snyder, meanwhile, declined to speak about what to expect from Favors, opposing center, and opted to reflect on the relationship they built during their time together.

“You grow to close to somebody, and we were together from [my] Day 1. He and Rudy [Gobert] were the two. … You’re always gonna miss someone personally, and that’s part of this business, and I think everybody knows that — Fav knows that,” Snyder said. “He’s playing really well here right now, and I’m happy for him that he’s found a comfort level. … As much as anything, it’s good to see him, and it’s good to see his smile.”

As Favors left the Pelicans’ locker room to do a television segment, he stopped to greet fellow former big man Tony Bradley, as well as some members of the team’s training staff. A member of the team’s PR staff elicited a big grin upon handing over a big bag of Favors’ favorite homemade beef jerky. When Ingles came out in the hallway between the teams’ locker rooms to stretch, he and Fav exchanged a big embrace and chatted for a few moments. And when Favors sat down for the TV interview in his red-and-blue Pelicans gear, Ingles ambled by and remarked in his typical sarcasm, “Those colors look terrible on you, by the way.”

They took some getting used to for Favors, as well.

While he said he understood Utah’s decision to deal him away in order to add more shooting in the form of Bojan Bogdanovic (“I had to respect it. I understood it. I knew it.”), it was still a bit of an adjustment.

Now, though, he is, of course, back to being even-keeled about it all again.

“It was tough at first, you talk about getting used to a new environment, but I’m more comfortable now than I was when I first got here,” Favors said. “I’m having fun, I’m enjoying my time here.”