New York • From his brief, rookie stay in New Jersey with the Nets to being the most tenured player with the Jazz, Derrick Favors has learned plenty about the NBA in what is now an eight-year career.
What he knows now more than ever is that basketball is a business. An unsentimental and sometimes harsh business.
Favors will be a free agent at the end of the season, and has already become the subject of speculation. He emphatically told The Salt Lake Tribune this week that he wants to remain with the Jazz long-term, but also knows the reality: He could be a trade asset for the Jazz as they rebuild in the wake of Gordon Hayward’s own free agency departure last summer.
Either way, he says he’s determined not worry about it. His goal for this season is to be the best Derrick Favors he can be — whether that lands him in another NBA city or with the Jazz for the remainder of his career.
“The key is for me not to think about it,” Favors said. “I don’t read the articles. I don’t read twitter. I just don’t pay attention to it. I just have to understand that I can be here one day and gone the next. So I have to work hard while I’m here. I have to keep working on my game. And when I’m in the game, I just have to know that I’m not only playing for my team, but I’m showcasing my talent as well.”
Derrick Favors update<br>• Is averaging 10.9 points, 5.7 rebounds in 27.7 minutes per game.<br>• Will bean unrestricted free agent this summer.<br>• Is in his eighth season and is the longest tenured member of the Jazz.<br>• Is still just 26 years old.
As the Jazz prepare to face the Brooklyn Nets Friday at the Barclays Center, Favors finds himself with opportunity that wasn’t available earlier in the season. Rudy Gobert is out for at least the next month with a bone contusion in his right leg, which means Favors is the starter at center, rather than his customary power forward spot.
Offensively, Favors will be a primary pick and roll big man with point guard Ricky Rubio, which means more scoring chances and more touches in the paint. It also means Favors is much more likely to be on the floor in fourth quarters and clutch situations, when Jazz coach Quin Snyder likes to go with smaller lineups.
Favors knows he has to take advantage. Utah’s viability as a playoff contender depends on his ability to hold the fort down on both ends for Gobert.
“It’s nothing new,” Favors said. “I know I’m going to have to work hard, and I know I’m going to be counted on to produce. I’m ready for it. It’s a position I’ve been in before.”
Gobert has missed three games since the injury, and Favors been a mixed bag in his absence. Against the Brooklyn Nets, he was great. He scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, easily his best all-around game in two years. He and Rubio thrived in the pick and roll, and he shut down the paint defensively.
Things got harder for Favors against Minnesota. He scored nine points and grabbed 10 rebounds, but had a hard time guarding Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, and the Jazz were blown out.
In Wednesday’s loss to the Knicks, Favors scored six points, while grabbing 10 rebounds and handing out five assists. He blocked three shots, but had his hands full against Kristaps Porzingis and Enes Kanter.
“Positions are what we make of them,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “I remember telling Enes and Derrick they were a nine, so they could both be a four [power forward] and five [center]. It hasn’t changed for Derrick. We need him to be a threat offensively and defensively. We need him to be up in the pick and roll. Derrick is a different player than Rudy, he presents different challenges for a defense.”
For Favors, playing at center comes with advantages and drawbacks. He’s regained his mobility and athleticism after being slowed much of last season with his own bone contusion. His biggest strength offensively is his ability to run pick and roll. He can make the mid-range jumper, something Gobert can’t do consistently. He can get to the basket and finish at the rim.
Favors, however, is undersized at center in a some matchups. That was apparent against Towns and Porzingis. And it will be apparent on Monday, when the Jazz face Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers.
He doesn’t have a size issue at power forward, and that’s one of the reasons it’s the position he prefers to play. So Favors was frustrated earlier this season, when he wasn’t getting the playing time or the touches he desired at the four, as Snyder opted for smaller lineups around Gobert. He’d call his friends, just to talk and vent a little. Those conversations gave him perspective.
“Those were the friends I grew up with,” Favors said. “They helped me realize that I am blessed to be in this position. When I’m frustrated about playing time and touches, I realize there are people out there frustrated with real life. I just have to look at it like that. I have to be blessed for the opportunity and then when I get my chance, go out there and show what I can do.”
For Favors, that time is now. With a difficult schedule looming in the next month, the Jazz don’t have a chance for success unless Favors is playing at a high level. Since the end of last season, discussions concerning the Jazz have centered around a possible breakup with Favors, either via trade or through free agency.
But for now, Favors and the Jazz are joined at the hip. More than ever.
Jazz at Nets<br>At the Barclays Center, Brooklyn N.Y.<br>Tipoff • Friday, 5:30 p.m. MST<br>TV • ATTSN<br>Radio • 1280 AM/97.5 FM<br>Records • Jazz 6-9; Nets 5-9<br>Season series • Jazz lead, 1-0.<br>Last meeting • Jazz 114, Nets 106 (Nov. 11)<br>About the Jazz • Rookie Donovan Mitchell scored 26 points in the last meeting between thetwo teams. … The Jazz have lost six of their last seven games. … JonasJerebko scored a season-high nine points on Wednesday against theKnicks. … The Jazz haven’t shot 50 percent from the field since anopening night win over the Denver Nuggets, according to the AssociatedPress. … The Jazz are the only team in the NBA currently without a roadwin.<br>About the Nets • About the Nets • According to ESPN, Brooklyn is one of only eight teamsin the NBA with cap space ($3.4 million). … Rookie forward Jarrett Allenmade his return to the lineup Tuesday, after missing six games with aninjured left foot. … Nets guard D’Angelo Russell isn’t expected to play,after injuring his knee last week against the Jazz. … The Nets willplay just four home games in November. … The Nets have lost three oftheir last four games.