While Keyonte George was racking up highlights and attention for his summer league exploits, fellow Utah Jazz rookie Taylor Hendricks has been something of a man of mystery, owing to a hamstring injury that’s kept him on the sideline.
But we’re out to change that. The mystery part, not the hamstring. We’re not medical professionals.
The No. 9 overall pick of the 2023 draft has agreed to participate in periodic meetings with The Salt Lake Tribune to document the ups and downs of his rookie season — a yearlong journal, if you will, in Q&A form, to provide a little insight into the life of a collegiate star making his transition to the NBA.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
Let’s start off with the big thing: Obviously, a lot of Jazz fans were hoping to get a look at you during summer league. What’s the update on your hamstring?
I will say I feel pretty good right now. It’s just, you know, I don’t feel 100%, so we didn’t really want to push anything and force summer league play, and then have to worry about me being out for training camp. But right now I feel good. And I’ll be ready for training camp.
The Jazz gave us a small update saying that you and Brice [Sensabaugh] had started doing some on-court work. How have things been ramping up?
Right now, I’m doing cardio on the treadmill and stuff, and doing some on-court workouts like shooting, ball-handling, and doing upper-body workouts and things like that.
Clearly you’re playing things safe, but what was it like having to sit out and miss all of summer league?
I mean, it’s kind of bittersweet. It’s nice to watch my teammates play and do as well as they [did]. But I kind of [wanted] to get out there and contribute, just be on the floor and try to get my feet wet a little. But it’s all for good measure in the future.
Who have you been getting to know at this point? Which guys have you been connecting with?
Pretty much everybody, but mostly probably Ochai [Agbaji] and Micah Potter. Those guys just have been talking to me the most. Me and Micah relate because we’re both Christians — we have the same [Bible] verse in our Instagram bio [Matthew 6:33], so that’s pretty much how that relationship started.
Before he sprained his ankle, Keyonte [George] was having some really good games and capturing people’s attention. What have you noticed about his game? What stood out about the way he was playing?
He hasn’t had a bad game; other rookies, they’ve had bad games, but Keyonte just hasn’t had a bad game. Maybe he’s started slow, but he always finished the game great. It’s really comforting seeing him do really well and being comfortable out there.
What’s your interaction been like with the coaching staff to this point?
We’ve had a pretty like a really good relationship — I’m always talking to them. I’m pretty close with D.A. — Danny Ainge — and the owner [Ryan Smith], and the head coach [Will Hardy], and the GM [Justin Zanik]. So, you know, I feel pretty comfortable around all of them.
What are your early impressions of Will?
He’s smart. I will say that for sure. He has a lot of basketball knowledge. He’s really smart.
What, if anything, has been maybe different or surprising about the NBA so far? Anything that’s been, “Oh, I didn’t expect that”?
I would just say the rookie transition program. They had us at the Las Vegas Aces facility just learning about financial literacy, and then different things you might encounter as rookies. That’s something I never knew about until I got here.
Walker Kessler told me something along those lines last season — just the challenges of suddenly having to do adult things, like building your credit score, buying a car, getting a place to live, and no longer being so reliant on parents.
I mean, I was just talking to my mom yesterday. She was saying that she might want to stay in Florida. So I was stressing all last night about it! I was like, ‘Yo, what am I gonna do? I’ll be by myself!’
You were expecting that she was going to come out to Utah with you?
Yeah, I thought she was going to stay with me for a little while so I could be comfortable. But we’ll see.
What’s the plan once summer league is over?
I’m just going to head home for a couple of days. And I’m going to be right back. I’m not going to be gone for too long.
Have you been in contact with many of the vets at this point?
Yeah, Kelly Olynyk has really been around a lot, so [I’ve been] talking to him. And then Kris Dunn was [in Las Vegas] for a couple of days in the summer league, Talen Horton[-Tucker] was here a couple of days, Collin [Sexton] was here for a couple of days as well. So I got to meet them in person and just talk to them.
What’s maybe been the most meaningful conversation you’ve had with any of them?
I don’t know. I wouldn’t say anything was really meaningful. There wasn’t really anything like that yet.
From watching summer league play, which has some NBA-level guys, what differences have stood out from what you faced in college?
I would say how the defenses are structured. Because in college, there’s no defensive three-second rule, and then also, the spacing’s not as wide as [it is in] the NBA. So I would just say, it’s just different things you have to do on defense. But just watching [the games], I feel like I could thrive in that environment.
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