Favors, Exum and Neto believe the Jazz can ‘build something special’

by Aaron Falk

They walked into the press conference room exactly the way they wanted their free agency to go.

Quickly.

Quietly.

Everyone still together.

When their season ended in May, after 48 regular-season wins and a trip to the second round of the playoffs, Derrick Favors, Danté Exum and Raul Neto all felt their team had only scratched the surface of its potential. That’s why the trio of returning free agents will all be back with the Utah Jazz next season.

“We can build something special,” Favors said.

The three players signed their new contracts on Friday morning. At noon, they sat together with Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey for a joint press conference.

“As far as these three guys go, it’s a great story,” Lindsey said. “What makes it a unique story is why we’re up here together. We’re a team.”

All three players had to overcome different challenges during the 2017-18 season.

Last season, Favors saw a change in his role offensively and had to share crunch-time minutes with forward Jae Crowder and center Rudy Gobert.

“There’s probably nobody who sacrificed his own personal game and stats more than Fav,” Lindsey said.

Without that sacrifice, without Favors, the Jazz would not have enjoyed the same level of success the past two years.

“I can simply say if there’s no Derrick Favors these last two seasons, there’s no second round in the playoffs,” he said.

Favors said he has “bought into the program” despite a change in his role.

The 26-year-old from Atlanta is the longest-tenured Jazzman and just the 12th player in franchise history to appear in more than 500 games for the team—and he hopes to stay in a Jazz uniform for as long as possible.

“They told me from day one that they wanted me here for the long run,” he said. “They wanted me to retire as a Jazzman. Hopefully it happens.”

Exum only appeared in 14 regular-season games after battling back from a shoulder injury. Still, Jazz officials believe strongly in the 22-year-old Australian and his potential.

“Obviously the path hasn’t been what I expected with the injuries, but I’ve put in the work and I will continue to put in the work to get better,” Exum said. “I’m glad to be back with this team. I think we’re building something special.”

Neto, 26, started his NBA career as a starter but found himself as the team’s third point guard. Lindsey praised Neto for always being ready to perform, regardless of his role or place on the depth chart.

“All I know is he’s done everything he’s asked,” Lindsey said.

“When a lot of people never believe in me playing in this league, these guys have always been with me and trusted in my game,” Neto added. “I’m very happy and excited to be here. I’m happy for those guys. I’m happy for what we’re building.”