SALT LAKE CITY — It may have just been a slip of the tongue or perhaps just his manner of talking when Derrick Favors spoke in the past tense about his time in Utah during his “locker-cleanout” interview Wednesday with local media.
“I enjoyed this year,” he said. “I enjoyed my whole time in Utah. I fell in love with the city, with the organization, with you guys.”
While those words might have made it sound like Favors might be done playing in Utah, he made it clear in his later comments that he hasn’t made his mind up about what his plans are for next season.
Favors, who has been with the Jazz since 2011, longer than any other player on the team, is a free agent this summer, having completed the final season of a four-year, $48 million contract that paid him $12 million this past season. He said he’s not leaning one way or another some two months before he must make a decision on his future.
“We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “There will be a lot of things to think about this summer, but I can wait for that.”
After a tough 2016-17 season when he missed 32 games because of injuries and saw his minutes drop to 24 a game and scoring average to 9.5 ppg, Favors’ numbers improved this season. But they were still off his numbers from 2013-16 when he played more than 30 minutes per night and averaged around 16 points and eight rebounds per game for two straight seasons.
“I‘ve been here through the tough times and I’ve been here through the good times, kind of like a relationship that you’ve been through so much together,” he said. “There’s no sense in breaking it up, so it will definitely play a factor with me because I think this team has a bright future.”
Favors continued to gush about his situation, saying, “Obviously we can play with the best teams. We’ve got some really good players, the coaching staff is great, the organization is great, the city, the fan base — everything. It will play a big part in my decision this summer.”
Early in the season, Favors didn’t hide his disgruntlement with his role when the Jazz were struggling and his game wasn’t meshing well with Rudy Gobert and newcomer Ricky Rubio. Favors seemed to gain some confidence when he was counted on to play center in Gobert’s absence for 26 games due to injuries and he contributed more in the last three months of the season when the Jazz went on their late-season tear. For the year, Favors averaged 12.3 points and 7.2 rebounds in 28 minutes per game.
“My role definitely changed this year, something I wasn’t expecting at first, but I kind of had to adjust to it, and deal with it and just find a way to contribute on the court,” he said. “I knew I would have to sacrifice minutes, sacrifice shots, just sacrifice a lot of individual stuff, but I was up for the challenge and do what I had to do to help the team win and make sure I stayed positive throughout the whole situation.”
Neither general manager Dennis Lindsey nor coach Quin Snyder addressed Favors’ impending free agency at the postseason press conference, but both praised Favors and said he can continue to work well with Gobert on the floor.
“What Derrick did against Oklahoma City is a good example of how effective he can be with Rudy,” said Snyder.
“Going back to the Clippers series last year when Rudy got hurt — if there’s no Derrick Favors, there’s no second round for us in the playoffs,” added Lindsey, who pointed to other successful NBA teams that have utilized two bigs as the Jazz have.
In making $12 million this year, Favors ranked 102nd in NBA salary and was fourth on the Jazz behind Rudy Gobert ($21.9 million), Ricky Rubio ($14.3 million) and Joe Ingles ($14.1 million), according to Basketball-reference.com.
With a payroll of $107.6 million this year, right at the NBA salary cap, the Jazz have close to $90 million committed to next year’s payroll. Every main player is locked in for next year except for Dante Exum, who made $5 million this year and is expected to get a substantial raise with a new contract. So Favors’ signing could depend on how much he is willing to take, what Exum decides to do and if the Jazz plan to stay under the salary cap for next year and not venture into luxury tax territory, which they haven’t done in the past.
It will be hard for the Jazz to sign an expensive free agent and Lindsey indicated that, saying, “It’s human nature to look outside your walls,” but “I would look internally to see what we can do to improve.”
Favors says he still sees himself as a power forward even though a lot of folks view him as a center. He said playing more on the perimeter this year helped his overall game, and although he didn’t say it, that could make him more marketable.
“I think I’m more effective inside the 3-point line but Coach wanted me to work on being able to shoot the 3, being able to handle the ball in certain situations, being able to guard multiple positions,” he said. “So it was a new challenge I was up for. I had to sacrifice not being in the paint and just evolve with my game beyond the three-point line. I’m happy it worked out.”
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