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'Something I wanted to be a part of'—Royce O'Neale signs long-term extension with the Utah Jazz
Royce O’Neale wanted to be in a Utah Jazz uniform so badly that he got his tooth knocked out.
The first time it happened, O’Neale was an undrafted forward trying to make an impression at a free agent minicamp. That helped O’Neale later earn a training camp invite where he fought and scrapped and lost the tooth on the court once again.
Three seasons later, that tooth — and just about everything else — was in place as O’Neale flashed a wide smile, having just signed a long-term contract extension with the Jazz.
“I’m staying here for a while,” he said.
The Jazz announced O’Neale’s extension Sunday morning. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, per team policy. But the extension locks up one of the league’s best young 3-and-D players for the long-term, avoiding the threat of losing him as a restricted free agent this summer.
“Re-signing Royce to a long-term extension was a priority for our organization,” said Dennis Lindsey, Jazz executive vice president of basketball operations. “Royce is an elite defender and has really show the ability to spread the floor with his shooting. We feel he brings a versatility to our team that’s vital to our success. We’re happy that we were able to retain not only a great player in Royce, but also a tremendous person.”
O’Neale said he wanted to get a deal done now, rather than wait for summer, so that he could focus on his game.
“I tried not to worry about it even though I was thinking about it a little bit,” he said. “Now we can just focus on basketball.”
After going undrafted out of Baylor, O’Neale is now averaging 6.2 points (while shooting 44.3 percent from 3), 5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in his third NBA season.
“We’ve been really pleased with Royce’s development over the past two-and-half seasons with us,” said Jazz General Manager Justin Zanik. “His progress is a testament to the work ethic he has brought to our team since his first training camp. We’re excited to watch him grow even more in a Jazz uniform.”
“Just the journey of how far I’ve come,” O’Neale said, “I’ve come a long way.”
The forward from Killeen, Texas, said he has found a home in Utah.
“The fans are amazing. The place has grown on me. I’m still not a cold-weather guy, but I’m getting used to it. And then the team—it’s a great group of guys. We all fit in together. Since Day 1, I’ve felt welcome and comfortable. It’s something I wanted to be a part of.”