Derrick Favors on his return to the Utah Jazz: ‘It feels like home’

If it seemed like Derrick Favors’ decision to rejoin the Utah Jazz was a pretty instantaneous one after free agency opened up this past Friday, well, that’s just not accurate.

He and his agent talked it over for at least five minutes — maybe even 10.

Still, while a few other teams reached out to him both before and after Dennis Lindsey, Justin Zanik and Quin Snyder rang him up for a group confab, and while he did seriously consider their offers, there ultimately wasn’t too much thinking to be done about it on his end.

“I just came to the decision: ‘You know what, man? It feels better going back to Utah,’” Favors told the media in a Wednesday afternoon Zoom call, some 2.5 hours after the team officially announced his return. “I know the system there; I love the organization, the city; I’m just familiar with it — it feels like home.”

Favors, in reflecting upon being traded away the previous offseason after spending 8.5 years with the team, said there was never any ill will. Utah’s front office had just acquired Mike Conley in a trade, and were working toward a free-agent deal with sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic to bolster the offense, and Favors could read the writing on the wall — his large salary all but guaranteed he’d be departing to create the requisite cap space.

He said he appreciated being asked if he had a preference on his eventual landing spot, and the Jazz’s subsequent efforts to actually get him to the place he named — New Orleans. Favors enjoyed his year with the Pelicans, praising the city, the organization, and the “talented” young cast, but once again, after the season, intuited the inevitable.

“I kind of wanted to go back, but I felt they wanted to go in another direction,” Favors said.

And so it is that both he and the Jazz once again took an old direction, figuring a reunion was beneficial to both sides.

The Jazz get to reinforce their second unit and shore up their paint defense when starting center Rudy Gobert isn’t playing. They also get someone with the versatility to give them some minutes at the four position in two-big lineups. Favors, meanwhile, gets to avoid the uncertainty inherent in playing for a third team in three years, and returns to a city, an organization, and a locker room that he knows and loves.

After departing a year ago, he figured he might one day come back to Salt Lake City several years down the line. He didn’t plan on a return just one season later, but once he discovered for certain there was mutual interest, there was no point resisting.

“Talking to Dennis, talking to Justin, talking to Quin, I couldn’t turn it down,” Favors said. “Utah is like a second home to me — I’ve been there since I was 19, [since] around 2010. It just felt right. So once they came with the opportunity, I jumped on it.”

The call with the Jazz contingent, he said, wasn’t even about basketball; no discussion of a potential role, of how he might fit on a team that in his absence has become one of the more dynamic perimeter scoring units in the league. They just wanted to catch up, to see how he was doing, and to let him know he was wanted and needed.

Snyder, he added, was a big part of the appeal, calling him “my favorite coach in the world.” Asked to elaborate on why, Favors said, “He’s a smart guy, a smart coach, he puts everyone in positions to succeed.”

And he believes that the team as a whole is in such a position.

While noting that an offense-oriented Jazz team “is going to be something different for me,” he said he’d already spoke with Conley to express his excitement, and said he was looking forward to learning how to play with Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson as well, calling them “two guys that can put the ball in the basket.”

That said, the chance to run it back with the old familiar faces was even more enticing. After word got out of his three-year deal with the team, Rudy Gobert texted him, Donovan Mitchell and Royce O’Neale both FaceTimed him.

And his old pick-and-roll partner, Joe Ingles, was among the first to reach out.

“He actually texted me right after I committed to the Jazz,” Favors said. “And the first thing he said was, ‘Pocket pass! We’re back!’”