SALT LAKE CITY — On Thursday, the Salt Lake City Stars dropped a 127-109 game to the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
With six days until the next game versus the Memphis Hustle on Dec. 27, Naz Mitrou-Long decided to return home to Ontario, Canada, on a six-hour, red-eye flight to be with his loved ones during the Christmas holiday.
After a brief nap upon arriving, his father, Jersey Long, delivered some life-changing news to the rookie that the Utah Jazz had signed him to a two-way deal.
The 24-year-old was ecstatic.
“He woke me up and basically told me that I was being offered the two-way deal,” Mitrou-Long recalled. “It’s a good opportunity and it’s great to be around a team like this, especially with a bunch of veteran guys and guys that have been in the trenches and have won several games.
“I can just learn and be a sponge, so I’m ecstatic about it. I’m blessed to be honest.”
So after being home for just a few hours, the former Iowa State star had to return to Salt Lake City for shootaround and to suit up for Saturday’s home game against Oklahoma City. Prior to tip-off, he went through drills next to Donovan Mitchell and even posted his No. 30 home white Jazz threads on Twitter to cherish the moment.
Having already participated in the Jazz’s training camp and two preseason games, Mitrou-Long is already familiar with coach Quin Snyder’s principles.
He was also getting solid reps for the Stars, appearing in 20 games while averaging 15 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.2 steals while logging nearly 35 minutes per game. During the Jazz preseason, he averaged 4.0 points and 1.0 assists in seven minutes, but kept plugging away at fulfilling his goal of someday playing in the NBA.
“This is why my agent and I felt that it was the best move to turn down some offers that were pretty big money deals overseas because it’s not really about the money ever,” Mitrou-Long said. “It’s about the dream and just being here.
“I obviously don’t presume to come in here and play a substantial amount of minutes or even play at all,” he added. “If I get any opportunity, it’s going to be to learn and take advantage of it.”
In addition to signing Mitrou-Long, the Jazz waived guard Nate Wolters Saturday. Former Louisiana State forward Erik McCree was also signed to a two-way deal Thursday, as the team waived center/forward Eric Griffin. McCree was inactive versus Oklahoma City.
The Jazz have been bitten by the injury bug all season as Rudy Gobert (knee), Raul Neto (concussion) and Dante Exum (left shoulder surgery) continue to heal.
“Naz’s thing right now is just to be prepared to play if need be and to use the opportunity to continue to get better,” Snyder said. “That’s why he’s here. We had him in training camp and he did a really good job.
“We want to try to develop young guys, young players,” he added. “That’s part of the system and what we believe in. So here’s an opportunity for him to stretch himself in another situation.”
Mitrou-Long enjoyed a successful career at Iowa State over the past four years, helping the program win three Big 12 titles and reaching the NCAA Tournament for four consecutive seasons. He nailed the second-most 3-pointers in program history (260) and tied the second-most victories in Cyclones history (98).
Mitrou-Long says he didn’t reach this level to fail. He wants to learn the building blocks to staying in the league. This year’s Christmas will never be forgotten as he was presented with one of the best opportunities of his life.
“It’s no secret that I can shoot the ball, space the floor, be a pest on defense,” Mitrou-Long said. “I definitely think that’s something that I bring to the table.
“Being in the G League, I’ve been developing playing point guard more and working on creating for others,” he added. “I’m just a well-rounded guard that can play a couple positions and help the team wherever I need to help.”