This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Jermaine Taylor's path has taken him around the world. Over the past five years, he has lived in Spain, Israel, China, New Zealand and the Dominican Republic. Ask him for his favorite memory and he doesn't need long to find an answer.
"My first NBA start, against the Lakers," Taylor says. "Had to guard Kobe."
Taylor, 29, is like so many of his Salt Lake City Stars teammates in that regard: Nothing burns brighter than their NBA dreams. So as the Utah Jazz's D-League team prepares to tip off its first season in Salt Lake, the 15 new Stars all have their sights set on something bigger for themselves.
"It's always in your mind," said center Eric Dawson, who at 32 is hoping to get back to the NBA, where he played four games with the San Antonio Spurs in 2012. "I'm just waiting for that time."
A season ago, Dean Cooper's Idaho Stampede led the D-League in NBA call-ups. His team has been rebranded and moved to a new home, but Cooper is hoping for more of the same this year.
"If we lead the league in call-ups again, I'll be the happiest guy in the world," he said.
Cooper reminds his players of recent D-League success stories Danny Green in San Antonio and Tyler Johnson and Hassan Whiteside in Miami, whose NBA contracts are worth more than $180 million combined to motivate them.
"There's a lot of money to go around and everybody has a different path," Cooper said. "Just stay the course and do what you do."
Taylor played with Whiteside for a season when the two were with the Sacramento Kings, and said he knew the center had what it takes to survive in the NBA long before Whiteside had used to the D-League to help resurrect a stalled career.
"Now that he gets his chance, he's a [$98-million] contract," Taylor said. "There are a lot of guys right now in the D-League I believe can do the same thing, but they just have to get that chance."
Some of them might be wearing Stars jerseys now.
Former Philadelphia 76ers center Henry Sims was one of the last players cut by the Utah Jazz at the end of training camp.
"They told me I'm an NBA player," he said. "Me, I'm kind of like why am I not in the NBA then? But everybody's career path is different."
"There are NBA players all over the world, believe it or not," he added. "But it's patience and it's a lot o of hard work to get there and stay there."
Former Runnin' Ute forward Dakarai Tucker had to earn his spot on the Stars by first attending an open tryout, then beating out five other hopefuls during the team's training camp. Tucker knows well that Spurs forward Jonathon Simmons' path to the NBA began the same way.
"I've had multiple people tell me you can do this or you can be like him," Tucker said. "That's pretty motivating for me."
Stars forward J.J. O'Brien got his taste last season, when the Jazz called him up for a 10-day stint. And when he returned to the D-League, Cooper said, O'Brien "was completely different."
"Just the fact that it's the premier basketball in the world, everybody wants to get to that level," O'Brien said. "But the lifestyle, too. The travel, the hotels, the ability to get in the gym whenever you want and playing in front of thousands of people every night are all major reasons you want to get back."
Rookie guards Marcus Paige and Tyrone Wallace, meanwhile, are simply trying to get there for the first time, after being drafted by the Jazz in the second round last June. Last year, the two youngsters starred at North Carolina and Cal. Now, they find themselves preparing for a season of games at Salt Lake Community College and hoping for a shot at their NBA dreams.
"I'm just going to try to get better," Paige said. "Whether I get an opportunity to get called up or not, or how soon that happens, or by who, I'm not too worried about it. I'm just worried about getting better and working every day to become a better player so whenever that opportunity comes, and I know it will, that I'll be able to make the most of it and be able to stick."
Salt Lake City Stars schedule
(Home games at SLCC's Bruin Arena unless otherwise noted)
Nov. 12 at Sioux Falls Skyforce
Nov. 15 at Oklahoma City Blue
Nov. 18 vs. Northern Arizona Suns
Nov. 19 at Northern Arizona Suns
Nov. 21 vs. Oklahoma City Blue
Nov. 23 vs. Texas Legends
Nov. 26 at Texas Legends
Nov. 29 vs. Northern Arizona Suns
Dec. 1 at Los Angeles D-Fenders
Dec. 3 at Austin Spurs
Dec. 5 at Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Dec. 11 at Sioux Falls Skyforce
Dec. 16 vs. Rio Grande Valley Vipers [cq]
Dec. 17 vs. Rio Grande Valley Vipers [cq]
Dec. 20 vs. Austin Spurs
Dec. 22 vs. Texas Legends
Dec. 30 vs. Sioux Falls Skyforce
Jan. 3 vs. Oklahoma City Blue
Jan. 6 vs. Iowa Energy
Jan. 7 vs. Canton Charge
Jan. 10 vs. Austin Spurs
Jan. 11 v. Grand Rapids Drive
Jan. 13 at Santa Cruz Warriors [cq]
Jan. 14 at Santa Cruz Warriors [cq]
Jan. 27 vs. Santa Cruz Warriors
Jan. 29 at Reno Bighorns
Feb. 1 at Northern Arizona Stars
Feb. 3 at Reno Bighorns
Feb. 4 vs. Iowa Energy
Feb. 6 vs. Los Angeles D-Fenders
Feb. 8 vs. Los Angeles D-Fenders (at Vivint SmartHome Arena)
Feb. 23 at Iowa Energy
Feb. 25 at Oklahoma City Blue
Feb. 27 vs. Windy City Bulls
March 3 at Texas Legends
March 5 at Austin Spurs
March 8 vs. Fort Wayne Mad Ants
March 10 vs. Raptors 905
March 11 vs. Sioux Falls Skyforce
March 15 at Erie Bayhawks
March 17 at Delaware 87ers
March 19 at Maine Red Claws
March 21 at Long Island Nets
March 23 at Greensboro Swarm
March 25 at Rio Grande Valley Vipers
March 27 vs. Santa Cruz Warriors
March 31. vs. Reno Bighorns
April 1 at Los Angeles D-Fenders