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‘There’s a different confidence’ about Simone Fontecchio in his second season with the Utah Jazz

Simone Fontecchio is finding joy in stability in his second NBA season

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Forward Simone Fontecchio smiles

Forward Simone Fontecchio talks to members of the media during Utah Jazz media day at the Zions Bank Basketball Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Simone Fontecchio is finding joy in stability.

He’s still trying to navigate his place on the Utah Jazz roster and find a way to be effective when his position in the rotation seems to change pretty often, but just being on the roster has given him something he hadn’t had in more than five years before coming to the NBA.

Around this time last year, Fontecchio and his family were just trying to figure out where the nearest grocery store was. He was working on remembering not just the offense and defense that Will Hardy was implementing as a rookie head coach but the names of his teammates and the route from his house to the Jazz practice facility.

For years, this had been what Fontecchio and his family were used to. He’d been on multiple international teams and dealt with language barriers and not knowing his surroundings very well, and all of this was compounded over the last few years as Fontecchio and his wife became a family of three when their daughter Bianca was born. Moving to a new place every single year was difficult.

“I can’t even imagine how hard that is,” Hardy said. “But you can just see it on his face every day, you can see the way he’s interacting with everybody and the way he moves around, there’s a different confidence about Simo this year.”

Jazz CEO Danny Ainge had been familiar with Fontecchio’s career early on and had brought him in for a pre-draft workout with the Celtics  back in 2015 when he had been named Lega Basket’s Best Player Under 22. But Fontecchio and his agent eventually withdrew from the draft and he continued his career internationally, moving from team to team during the season while also featuring on the Italian national team.

“It was a lot, so being in the same place for two straight years is everything,” Fontecchio said. “My daughter goes to school now, my wife has friends here and a routine. So it’s just easier. You know, last year at this period of time we were just trying to figure it out where we were.”

Luckily, when Fontecchio joined the Jazz, there were other European players on the Jazz roster that Fontecchio was able to confide in and relate to. 

“I think we clicked immediately,” Luka Samanic said of Fontecchio. “Great person, great guy, a competitor who likes to have fun. And if there’s a bad energy, he always comes in and makes everybody feel better.”

While last season was difficult for Fontecchio, he came into his first NBA season with nearly 10 years of professional international experience and a reputation as a sharp shooter on the court, which showed and continues to show.

“He’s been a pro basketball player for a long time,” Hardy said. “He has an ability to really stay ready. Whether he plays a ton of minutes or whether he plays zero. Obviously his threat of shooting is is great for us. But I’m more excited about all the the other things that he does — crashing the glass, changing things on the floor, he is a great cutter, and he really has a toughness about him that I think our team needs.”

Additionally, Fontecchio meets a positional need for the Jazz. The team is not exactly balanced when it comes to larger wing players, and in the first few games of the season, Fontecchio wasn’t getting a lot of playing time because of the experimentation happening with the large number of guards on the roster.

But in the last few games, with Ochai Agbaji moved into the starting lineup, Fontecchio has served as the reserve small forward on the roster and his confidence and comfort have been clear as day.

“I feel 10 times more comfortable,” Fontecchio said. “With the guys, they know me now and I know them. We would, of course, like to win a little bit more games, but it’s been fun for me. It’s been nice and I’m surrounded by a lot of great guys, great people, great staff that believe in me.”