The Utah Jazz retooled their roster this summer, bringing in Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw and George Hill. They’ll finally have Dante Exum and Alec Burks healthy. With talented youngins Trey Lyles and Chris Johnson teaming up with Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert and Rodney Hood, the squad is loaded with talent. The man holding it all together is soon-to-be seventh-year pro Derrick Favors. And he won’t settle for anything but improvement.
“I personally have a lot of expectations this year, especially with how close we were to making it to the Playoffs last year,” Favors says. “I think every guy on the team knows that, and I think every guy on the team is out there working hard to improve their game so we can reach that goal this year.”
The Jazz’s playoff fate was sealed just an hour before their final game of the 2015-16 season began, when the Houston Rockets knocked them out of contention after James Harden & Co. beat the Sacramento Kings.
It was a heartbreaking end to the season for Favors and his team. The Jazz finished 40-42, two wins better than the ’14-15 campaign. In his sixth season, the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket, averaged 16 points and 8 rebounds, the same numbers he posted during that ’14-15 year.
Those are solid numbers, but it’s been four seasons since Favors and the Jazz played more than 82 games. Favors is ready to change that.
“Big things are expected from everybody,” the 25-year-old says.
“This offseason, I’ve been busting my ass in workouts to reach that next level,” he continues. “Working on everything. Jumpshot, post moves. Working out on my body because I got injured last year. Making sure I’m healthy going into next year. I’ve just been working on everything.”
The accountability for himself is nothing new. Out of nowhere, Favors shot up draft boards before going third overall in 2010 to the New Jersey Nets at just 18. He’s worked just as hard since then and it’s shown, too. He’s increased his scoring and rebounding average every season he’s been in the League.
But his mentality has shifted with the birth of his daughters, a pair of twins who just turned 1. Add that to the fact that he’ll clock his 500th career game during next season, Favors is no longer that young kid we all remember him as.
“Now that I have kids, I have a huge responsibility in raising two little girls. I see things differently now,” Favors says. “The birth of my kids was the most important moment of my life.”
More than ever, Favors says he sees the need in getting better every day, both as a father and ballplayer. He’s not wasting any more time on the court, which means he’s serious about those goals. The table is all set for Favors to lead the Jazz back to the Playoffs. He knows it’s gonna start with him and his partner in the frontcourt, Rudy Gobert.
“We know each other’s game really well,” Favors says about Gobert. “I know that he’s an extremely great shot-blocker, he’s a good rebounder. He knows that if he can’t block a shot, he can’t get a rebound, I’ll be there to get it. On the offensive end, he knows that most of the post-ups are gonna go to me so he’s found ways to be able to get the offensive rebound. He’s also a surprisingly good passer. It works for both of us. We both can pass out of the high post and I can shoot from 18-20 feet, and he can do his dunks.”
Normally reserved, Favors laughs when he continues to talk about his teammate.
“I’d say Rudy got the weirdest personality,” Favors chuckles. “He’s from France so he’s got his way of doing things, which is different. But it’s kinda funny at the same time. The stuff that he says and the stuff that he does. He’s a great guy but he’s also a funny guy at the same time.”
With his family in the locker room—Favors says the whole team cracks jokes on each other—and his new family at home, the great expectations that Favors has placed on himself shouldn’t be a problem. He’s got the horses to run with him on the floor and a coach and front office that have the utmost faith in him. He’s got a support system behind him that he’ll continue to make proud, especially when they’re watching him in the Playoffs next year.
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