In his brief time thus far with the Utah Jazz, veteran forward Danuel House has shown himself to be a man who doesn’t do anything halfway.
Even something as ordinarily benign as praising the coaching staff’s work and player-development approach with him turns into something effusive, ebullient, exuberant … and a little esoteric.
“This is a good organization. And they believe so much in me, they’re pouring into me,” House said. “So my job is, if they’re pouring into me, to make sure that when the water hits the glass, make sure it’s purified enough for us to drink.”
The Jazz certainly have noticed.
Asked after a recent game about House’s defensive contribution, head coach Quin Snyder gave a response that was both specific and all-encompassing.
“A couple times tonight he was almost overly aggressive. I think that competitiveness comes out,” Snyder said. “I’ll take that any day of the week, and we’ll try to notch it down.”
That, as much as anything, is the reason why, after three 10-day contracts between the two sides, the Jazz opted to sign the 28-year-old for the remainder of the season.
Not a bad outcome for a guy who was waived by both the Rockets and Knicks this season.
But after the Jazz traded Miye Oni to save on their luxury tax bill, they had some open roster spots. And with a ton of other “ready body” players already signed elsewhere owing to the new wave of the coronavirus pandemic, House was the next man up on the list of guys drawn up by the Jazz’s pro personnel group.
And he was good to go.
“In that period, with the COVID hardship rules, you really saw a large group of players get an opportunity that, really, in a normal NBA season, that volume of opportunities are just not available,” Jazz GM Justin Zanik recounted. “… With Danuel, he obviously had five years in the league, and has been a part of some really productive, deep-playoff-run teams as a rotational player, even a starter. He started in Houston at the beginning of the year, and then their situation has changed a lot in the last 18 months.”
House stuck with Utah because, small sample size or not, he’s performed at a much higher level with the Jazz this season than he did with the Rockets.
The 6-foot-6 wing played 16 games with Houston, and his shooting was abysmal — 33.8% from the field, 29.4% from 3, a 46.7% true-shooting percentage, and a 40.5% effective field goal percentage.
Meanwhile, in his nine games for Utah, those numbers are 48.9% FGs, 42.9% on 3s, 64.5 TS%, and 62.2 EFG%.
He wanted to do more than make his case with stats, though — he wanted to leave a lasting impression.
“The only thing I wanted to do was just control my effort. Just leave it within the [front] office and coaches’ hands so it’d be like, ‘Alright, we need this guy,’” House said. “All I wanted to control was little things, and things they needed my help with.”
Once again, the Jazz noticed.
Zanik noted that House “has integrated seamlessly within this group during those three 10-days that he had, and got the confidence of his teammates.”
Those teammates all confirmed as much, and, when asked how it is that a guy signed “off the street” to some 10-days could wind up fitting in so well, they had no shortage of reasons why.
“He plays hard, he’s competing. He enjoys that — he enjoys being physical, he enjoys making plays defensively. I love it,” said Rudy Gobert.
“He’s a guy that, for most of my career, I’ve played against — he was a really good defender, good shooter, a guy with energy, just knows how to play the game, you know? He knows his role and he tries to be a star in it,” added Donovan Mitchell.
“He’s been around, and he’s been on some really good teams, played alongside some really great players. He’s seen a lot. So him coming in on a 10-day isn’t your normal 10-day experience,” concluded Mike Conley. “He comes in with a lot to give, as far as his leadership, the way he carries himself on the court as far as how hard he plays on every possession, his voice. From Day 1, he came in talking and being vocal — and that doesn’t happen with younger 10-day guys. He’s obviously a great fit for us, he does it on both ends of the floor. We’re excited to have him, and looking forward to the rest of the year.”
It’s the combination of both skills and intangibles that have made House’s water so drinkable thus far, though.
Immediately after extolling the “experience” angle, Conley added that House has the ability to knock down shots, to create for himself in the open court, and to stay in front of his man, on account of being “one of the better defenders on our team already.”
Meanwhile, in one breath, Snyder can talk about the wing’s capacity for navigating screen actions and switching onto and staying in front of point guards, and in the next, gush over his confidence and willingness to dive for loose balls. The coach is as likely to praise him for his intuitive spacing and solid 3-point stroke as he is for his energy and toughness, noting how even though House had a broken finger at the time, when the Jazz needed him to play big minutes in that game in Toronto where they were extremely short-handed, he went out and did it.
“To do that with juice and enthusiasm is something that our team [appreciates],” Snyder said. “He embraced that role from the beginning — that’s who he is.”
House, with genuine humility, agrees — circling back to that going-overboard theme.
“I’m just gonna make sure I do my job as best as I can, as much as I can, and even if they need a little bit extra, to make sure that I give it,” he said.
After all, in his mind, he’s just reciprocating what the Jazz have done and are doing for him.
Asked which assistant coach he’s primarily worked with in Utah, House pointed to player development specialist Jeff Watkinson, adding with a knowing laugh to the assembled media, “so basically, I do a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff.”
Then, perhaps feeling remorseful for singling out just one person, he quickly added that “everyone has been very helpful. Everyone on the staff, from head coach all the way down to the last media/video coordinator.”
He’s well-aware the franchise threw him a career lifeline.
During his final 10-day, when he was hoping to make his case one more time, it all went awry when he wound up in the NBA’s health and safety protocol. Those days in between the expiration of that last 10-day and the trade deadline were tough, knowing that the Jazz wouldn’t sign him then in order to keep their options open, in case a great deal came along that necessitated taking more players back than they sent out.
So he left Utah for a couple of days, headed home, laid low, and waited for a phone call.
He didn’t have to wait long.
“It’s the best feeling in the world. The way this season has been going, it’s been rocky, especially for me. To be able to get more stability, it eases the mind,” House said. “… Yes, yes, yes, yes. Praise to the man upstairs. Grateful that he gave me a blessing. This is a blessing. I’m grateful for my blessing. It’s another opportunity, and not only that, it’s a chance to come here and make some noise. Things I prayed about is coming to fruition, so I’m happy about it.”
That noise he wants to make? He plans to turn it up to 11.
“He texted me the other day: ‘I’m ready to go. This is our chance,’” said Mitchell. “When you have a guy like that, playing with that desperation, you feed off that.”