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Kyle Korver embraces the comforts and challenges of returning to Utah for a second stint with the Jazz
Kyle Korver and Quin Snyder bonded, quickly and deeply, during their lone season together with the Atlanta Hawks. Korver, a dead-eye wing, loved the painstaking process of perfecting his shooting form. And Snyder, wide-eyed and hopped up on coffee, was always looking for ways to help Korver grow his game.
“Every morning he had some new idea, some new thought,” Korver said. “It’s really easy in basketball—it’s easy in life—to stay in your wheelhouse. He just has a mind that’s constantly trying to find what’s next. How can we do something different?”
Those are lessons that have stayed with Korver, and they are lessons that he takes with him now, as he reunites with Snyder in Utah.
This week’s trade between the Jazz and the Cleveland Cavaliers brings Korver back to a familiar place, with so many connections and parallels to his first stint in Utah roughly a decade ago. He reunites with a trusted coach; he returns to a city and a franchise where he spent 2.5 formative seasons; and he joins a Jazz squad in a similar struggle to the one he joined back in December of 2007.
It is comfortable in many ways.
It is the same, but yet it is different.
It has to be.
“You can never expect things to happen like they did the last time,” he said. “You still have to put in the work.”
And Korver is ready to embrace his newest challenge.
In some ways, Korver had been expecting the call since July. The 3-point specialist arrived in Cleveland in January of 2017, looking to help LeBron James and the Cavaliers fight for an NBA title. When James left for Los Angeles last summer and the Cavs entered a period of rebuilding, Korver knew his time with Cleveland would be limited.
“You do your best, you try to help shape the new culture and help create a vision for what the team’s trying to do,” Korver said. “But I knew fairly early on that something was probably going to happen at some point. I just didn’t know where or when.”
Korver found out on Wednesday afternoon when he awoke from his nap and saw a number of missed calls and text messages from his agent and Cleveland general manager Koby Altman. Korver called back and Altman gave him the news: “Utah wants to make something happen.”
That brought a smile to Korver’s face. The 37-year-old and his family had been eying a few cities as possible destinations and, for a number of factors, Salt Lake City was one of them. While the roster has changed over entirely since Korver last wore a Jazz jersey, Korver and his wife, Juliet, still have friends from their time in Utah.
“Midseason trades are hard,” said Korver, who played for the Jazz from 2007-10. “But to go somewhere where you have relationships with people is a big deal. Not to have to start all the way over, to have people around that we know and love is going to be a big deal for us.”
The call with Altman kickstarted a whirlwind 24 hours for Korver and his family.
The Cavaliers were in Oklahoma City for a Wednesday night matchup with the Thunder, when Korver got the news he was going to be traded. He checked the flight times out of Will Rogers Airport and saw that he only had one chance to make it back to Cleveland that night.
“I wanted to be home to tell my kids in person about the move before they went to school and heard it from everybody else,” he said. “When I found out I sort of ran out of the locker room. There aren’t a lot of connecting flights between OKC and Cleveland, but there was one in like an hour. I didn’t even get to say goodbye to everybody in Cleveland.”
Korver flew from Oklahoma to Atlanta and landed back in Ohio at 1:30 a.m. He woke up early to tell his three children the news.
“My daughter is just old enough that moving is a big deal,” he said. “They’re going to be good, but it’s definitely going to be a change.”
After that, Korver loaded up his car, which will be shipped to Utah, packed up a suitcase with clothes, and then his wife, Juliet, dropped him off at the airport. He landed in Charlotte, completed his physical evaluation, and did his first interviews as a Jazzman again.
“I will be ready for a good meal and to sit down and get off my feet here in a minute,” he said on a phone call from the team hotel.
Kyle Korver lists off a few of the Utah Jazz’s troubles: a brutal early schedule, heavy on road games; a slow start against lofty expectations; a talented roster still looking to find its footing.
The Jazz were in a rut, losing 11 times in a 14-game stretch when the team traded Gordan Giricek and a protected first-round draft pick for Korver that season. And Korver’s arrival coincided with a complete turnaround, a Northwest Division title, and a trip to the second round of the NBA playoffs.
“I feel like we trailed by 15 points every single home game one year,” he said. “But we knew that we were going to be amazing in the fourth quarter and we were going to come back and win. The building was going to be rocking, and the other team was going to be breathing that air.”
Roughly a decade later, Korver is coming back to Utah after a trade this week with the Cleveland Cavaliers. So much has changed since Korver's first stop in Utah.
“I was in a much different phase of life back then,” Korver said. “Coming in as a young, single guy, I just found a great group of people to hang out with. It was a fun team to play on. Coach Sloan was great. The city really took me in.”
Korver has three children and a few more gray hairs now. The roster, the uniforms, even the name on the building has changed.
But both Korver and the Jazz wouldn’t mind if history repeated itself.
“There are a lot of similarities,” he said.
Korver is excited to play alongside Donovan Mitchell.
“I’ve always had a good relationship with superstar players,” the veteran said. “I don’t really demand the ball a lot. That’s when I’m at my best when I’m surrounded by good players.”
And he loves the idea of Rudy Gobert having his back on the defensive end of the court.
“I’m excited if someone gets behind me that he’s going to be there to block their shot,” Korver said.
Korver played alongside Jae Crowder in Cleveland for a time and knows Thabo Sefolosha from their time together with the Hawks. Korver knows Jazz assistant coach Jeff Watkinson from Atlanta, too. And, of course, there is his tie to Snyder.
“Quin’s always good at having multiple actions happening,” Korver said. “The ball doesn’t stick in someone’s hands. Trying to find different angles for screen-rolls, passing actions. He’s just really good at seeing it as a whole.
“It’s going to be great,” Korver added. “There’s a lot of potential here, a ton of good players. You feel like it’s all there. I’m excited to try to do my part.”