This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors, quiet and reserved by nature, isn't usually prone to hyperbole.
The power forward has mastered the art of the poker face in his years with the Jazz.
He broke that facade almost two months ago while sitting at his locker. It served as a rare moment of insight into Favors ' true thoughts.
"I hope nobody questions my toughness again," Favors said on that March day. "I feel like I sacrificed an entire season."
Favors looked relieved in an exit interview Tuesday that the most difficult season of his professional life was over. Of course he was happy with Utah's success the 51 wins, advancing in the playoffs and the bright future the roster offers.
But individually, Favors never faced the physical hardship he went through this season. There was the bone contusion in his knee that wouldn't go away, a consistent pain that bothered him from day one of training camp. It significantly diminished him as a player, taking him from averaging almost 17 points and nine rebounds a game in 2015-2016 to a backup center at the age of 25.
Favors lost his starting spot at power forward to veteran Boris Diaw while playing in just 50 games and averaging 23 minutes a night. He averaged 9.5 points and 6.1 rebounds in his worst statistical season since 2012, when he was a backup to Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson and was an afterthought by many in Utah's best season since 2010.
Favors looked forward to the summer Tuesday, and to the day where he finally will be pain free. He spoke of how difficult the season was for him and his hope of being his old self by the start of training camp.
"I just want to get healthy," Favors said. "This was tough on me, dealing with the injuries and not being able to play with my team and help my team. That was tough to deal with. But thankfully I have a good support system. This is going to make me a better person and a better player."
Favors will go home to Atlanta for the offseason and train there. He will take a few weeks off then begin working on his skillset. He wants to lose at least 20 pounds this summer, which he hopes will help his knees. Like the last two summers, Favors wants to extend his range and hone his jump shot out to the 3-point line.
Most importantly, Favors wants to regain his explosion. Favors is one of the more athletic big men in the NBA when healthy. And there still were flashes, even through the pain. Favors was Utah's only big man who could finish consistently over Draymond Green when the Jazz lost to the Golden State Warriors in the second round. And Favors resembled his old self in Utah's Game 7 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds against all-star DeAndre Jordan in 30 minutes of work.
But Favors has questions to answer. Will he ever consistently be the 2015-16 version again? Will he be able to stay healthy? Because those questions exist, this could be the most important offseason of his career.
"We know that Derrick has to get healthy, first and foremost," Favors' agent, Wallace Prather, told The Tribune. "But we know that if he is healthy, he's a guy who can impact a game on both ends of the floor."
It's also fair to ask whether Favors will be with the Jazz long term. He's heading into the final year of his second contract, and his fit with center Rudy Gobert has been in question. Utah coach Quin Snyder preferred to use Favors in relief of Gobert during the playoffs, rather than playing them together.
If Favors comes back healthy and he's able to consistently make jumpers, his defense along with Gobert makes the Jazz a special team. But his future with the Jazz becomes clouded if they continue to play him as a backup center.
"We understand it's a business," Prather said. "Derrick loves the Jazz and wants to be here. But we also know he could be the odd man out. Right now he's just focused on getting healthy and playing like he knows he can."
• Plans to spend his offseason in Atlanta after spending last summer in Utah.
• He and his fiancee are expecting their third child.
• Had his worst statistical season since 2012. He missed 32 games and came off the bench for the first time since 2012 .
• Best game of the season game in Game 7 vs. the Clippers a 17-points and 11-rebound performance in the first round of the playoffs.