SALT LAKE CITY — Back on Oct. 16, the Utah Jazz had to make a difficult decision for their final roster cut before the start of the season. It came down to rookie small forward Royce O’Neale and second-year power forward Joel Bolomboy.
The Jazz ended up keeping O’Neale instead of Bolomboy despite the fact that Bolomboy had played outstanding in the preseason, averaging 8.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in just 8.5 minutes per game. Bolomboy was the odd man out because the Jazz had a logjam of big men on the roster and needed more help at the wing position.
However, Bolomboy was picked up immediately by Milwaukee on a two-way contract and has spent most of the season with the Bucks. He only played once before Wednesday night’s game in Phoenix, where he played 20 minutes and contributed to the Bucks’ overtime victory with five rebounds and two steals.
“It felt good to come in there and make an impact and help us win the game,” said Bolomboy. “It was a really good team win, and I was just one of the pieces. I was ready when my name was called.”
Before Saturday night’s game, Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd had high praise for Bolomboy when asked what he liked about him.
“His toughness, his athletic ability — he’s a great young man who’s done everything we’ve asked,” Kidd said. “He helped us win that last ballgame (in Phoenix).”
Bolomboy was back on the bench for most of Saturday night’s 121-108 Bucks’ loss and only played the final two minutes, scoring two points on a pair of free throws and getting a rebound. But the soft-spoken Bolomboy said he is thrilled to be playing for Milwaukee and said he holds no ill feelings toward the Jazz organization.
“I don’t think it was a disappointment at all,” he said of being let go. “It was just business. The way I see it, you just got to go with it, you can’t do anything about it. They let me go and I still get to play basketball and I was fortunate the Bucks signed me to a deal. It’s a real good opportunity over here and I like it a lot.”
Bolomboy had been drafted No. 52 overall by the Jazz in 2016 after a standout career at Weber State. He bounced up and down between the Jazz and the Salt Lake Stars, where he averaged 16.6 points and 13.3 rebounds in 24 games. He played in just 12 Jazz games and averaged just under two points a game, while shooting 56.3 percent from the field.
The Jazz liked Bolomboy a lot and thought he had potential, but after acquiring veteran big men Epke Udoh and Jonas Jerebko in the summer, they didn’t see him getting much opportunity this season. General manager Dennis Lindsey called it a “hard day” when the Jazz let Bolomboy go.
“It was a difficult thing for us with Joel,” said coach Quin Snyder. “It was a fit issue, it really had nothing to do with Joel, it was more about our roster. So it was hard to see a guy that you’ve seen invest so much and especially our staff and our organization invest in him.”
Snyder said he’s happy Bolomboy seems to have found a home this season.
“It’s a positive thing,” he said. “You want players to benefit from their time here and we’ve seen it with other guys too. So you’re happy for them. You want to see a guy that’s been a part of your program have success, no matter where it is. It’s not surprising, and I’m happy to see that happening for Joel.”