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'Veteran' Novak hopes to find role on young Jazz team

Jazz newcomer Steve Novak poses for a photo as team media day Monday, Sept. 29, 2014, in Salt Lake City at the Zions Bank basketball center.
Jazz newcomer Steve Novak poses for a photo as team media day Monday, Sept. 29, 2014, in Salt Lake City at the Zions Bank basketball center.
Scott G Winterton, ©Scott G Winterton/Deseret News 2014

SALT LAKE CITY — Steve Novak has been around the NBA for a few years, playing for six different teams over the past nine seasons.

This year he finds himself in a completely different situation as the old man on a team of youngsters. Of the 13 players with fully guaranteed contracts, the 31-year-old Novak is the only player over 30 years old and much older than the next oldest player.

Novak is nearly 4½ years older than the next oldest Jazz player, fifth-year forward Jeremy Evans, who turns 27 later this month. Another new Jazz player, Trevor Booker, turns 27 next month. Dahntay Jones, who signed last week to an apparent non-guaranteed deal, is the only one of 19 players in camp older than Novak at age 33.

Novak is happy to embrace his role as the veteran on a very young team.

“Initially when I got traded here I knew immediately who they were with their young core,’’ Novak said. “Obviously we are a young team and guys like me and Trevor, we are the veterans and neither of us have ever been the veteran guys before.’’

The 6-foot-10, 235-pound Novak is known for his outside shooting and is expected to be a player who can come off the bench and knock down 3-point shots. He has played for Houston, L.A. Clippers, Dallas, San Antonio, New York and Toronto, with his best seasons coming with the Knicks in 2011-13, when he averaged 7.5 points and shot 44.1 percent from 3-point range and 88.1 percent from the foul line over the two years.

So far Novak has been impressed with what he’s seen of the young Jazz team.

“In terms of character and guys, we’ve got good people, I could tell that right away,’’ he said. “There’s a fine line that makes you better than you should be or not as good as you should have been. There’s no question that the guys here are high-character guys.’’

After his two years in New York, Novak was traded to Toronto before last season, but he wasn’t utilized as much with the Raptors and his numbers dropped off. But he expects to fit in well with Utah.

“I’ve been in the league nine years and I’ve been in different situations where I’ve played for a coach who was heavily offensed like Mike D’Antoni or Rick Adelman, and I’ve played for coaches that were all defense like Jeff Van Gundy or last year with Dwane Casey,’’ he said. “So it’s very much about finding the right spot, being used in the right way and also fitting into your role.

“Here with the way Quin wants to play and the group that we have — we want to score the ball, we want to shoot 3-pointers, we want to play up-tempo, so I see myself fitting in well. I think as long as I can make shots, there’ll be a role for me.’’

SPECIAL PLACE: So what does Novak think about coming to Salt Lake after spending his most recent seasons in big cities like New York and Toronto and previously playing in Los Angeles?

“I’m from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, so I’m from the good ol’ Midwest, where you don’t have all the hustle and bustle,’’ he said. “Being in New York and Toronto and L.A. was awesome and I know that every NBA town I’m in, I always try to make the most of it. I definitely appreciate being able to get from place to place in 15 minutes, and a little bit lower cost of living is always nice, so I definitely have a special place in my heart for Utah.’’

YOUNG AND YOUNGER: Seventeen of the 19 players in training camp for the Jazz are age 26 or younger. The most common ages among the players are 23 and 24, with five players each at those ages. Two are 21, two are 22 and two are 26. The youngest player is Dante Exum at 19 and the oldest is Dahntay Jones at 33.

MURPHY’S BACK: He’s back, but a lot Jazz fans may have forgotten Kevin Murphy has already spent part of a season with the team.

Murphy was a second-round pick for the Jazz out of Tennessee Tech in 2012, the 47th overall pick in the NBA draft. He was assigned to Reno of the D-League, less than a month into the 2013-14 season, but was later recalled by the Jazz and played in just 17 games, scoring a grand total of 15 points in 52 minutes.

He was traded to Golden State after the season and last year he went to play in Europe for a few months before returning to the D-League again where he averaged 25.5 points for the Idaho Stampede and was named an all-star.

“I’m happy for the opportunity to try and make the team,’’ Murphy said. “It’s nice to be back here, I feel like I’m home again.’’