SALT LAKE CITY — You can take a man out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texan out of a man.
That saying certainly applies to Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey, a Baylor product whose previous NBA gigs were with the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets.
For years, the Spurs and Rockets have held free-agent mini-camps. After being hired by the Jazz to replace Kevin O’Connor in 2012, Lindsey brought that tradition with him to Utah.
This past week, the Jazz held their fourth annual mini-camp for under-the-radar free agents who are hoping to get a shot (or another shot) at the NBA.
“It’s a chance for them to play in front of an NBA coaching staff and for us to get a look at them,” Jazz director of pro player personnel David Friedman said. “Last year, we had a kid by the name of Jonathon Simmons (in camp) just to give you an idea. He didn’t end up with us, but he ended up with the Spurs.”
During their three previous camps, 13 of the participants have gone on to play for NBA teams or attend training camps.
Lindsey was sold on the idea in San Antonio after Danny Green and Gary Neal piqued the Spurs’ interest during the mini-camp there. The Rockets also held similar camps.
The fact that the Jazz now own their own D-League team, the SLC Stars, puts added importance in events like this for the organization. Now they have two rosters to fill.
“There’s a lot of things that can happen out of mini-camps,” Friedman said. “Obviously the ultimate goal is to get a rotation players (for) the Utah Jazz — first a roster player, then a rotation player. If we can get a Danny Green starter, that’s the goal. It takes a tremendous amount of work and commitment.”
It means so much to the Jazz that they take time out of their draft preparation process to invite 30 players to their practice facility for two days. The team doesn’t publicize how much that costs, but they fly in all of the players, put them in hotels and feed them while they’re in Salt Lake City for a few days. That isn’t cheap.
“This is very important that we continue to do this,” said Friedman, who’s been around the NBA game for 40 years. “I think the agents know that we have a pretty good track record of being able to get guys looks and possible call-ups.”
This year’s crop of prospects included a handful of guys with local ties, including Ty Corbin’s son, Tyrell, the former West High star and Utah Mr. Basketball; former Utah State players Preston Medlin and Spencer Butterfield; ex-NBAer Dionte Christmas, who made his NBA debut against the Jazz while in Phoenix in 2013; and big man Julian Mavunga, Gordon Hayward’s best friend from Brownsburg, Indiana.
A couple of other intriguing participants included Argentine up-and-comer Nicolas Brussino and Greg Stiemsma, who was on four different NBA rosters between 2011-15.
Friedman spoke highly of Corbin, whose dad parted ways with the Jazz after the 2014-15 season.
“We watched his stats playing overseas (in Asia). He’s gotten better,” Friedman said of the quick guard. “We try to be a Jazz family. If somebody has a player who’s playing professionally and we can take a look at them, we don’t have a problem doing that. Obviously some of us stay in touch with Ty and have a good relationship.”
JAZZ NOTES: The team will host another pre-draft workout Sunday morning, featuring LSU guard Tim Quarterman, UCSB wing Michael Bryson, Memphis big Shaq Goodwin, Texas guard Isaiah Taylor, Oral Roberts wing Obi Emegano and French big Mathias Lessort. … The full free-agent mini-camp roster: Chris Hill, Tekele Cotton, Preston Medlin, Patrick Miller, Elijah Johnson, Ra’shad James, Keifer Sykes, Tyrell Corbin, Shaq Mckissic, Gary Bell Jr., Spencer Butterfield, Trey Zeigler, Jabril Trawick, Dionte Christmas, Royce O’Neale, Michael Morrison, Alex Davis, Dustin Hogue, Adonis Thomas, C.J. Fair, Nicolas Brussino, Brandon Ashley, Talib Zanna, Charles Jackson, Julian Mavunga, DaShonte Riley, Jordan Bachynski, David Laury, Greg Stiemsma and Eloy Vargas.