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Malcolm Thomas' agent scanned the Utah Jazz's roster and saw no player wearing his client's favorite number. It wasn't until after the newest Jazz player's hopes were raised that he found out Adrian Dantley's No. 4 jersey had already been retired.
But despite settling for his second favorite number 22 Thomas is just happy to have an NBA jersey.
"I'm just trying to stick in one place so I can use what I've learned," the 25-year-old Thomas said Sunday morning, before his first practice with the the Jazz. "So I can get on the court, stay on the court, stay on the team."
Undrafted in 2011 out of San Diego State, where he was one of the best shot blockers and rebounders in school history, Thomas' young career has included stops overseas, in the Development League and NBA stints with the Spurs, Warriors and Bulls. This season, Thomas made one appearance with San Antonio after being signed in December and saw several D-League assignments before being waived by the Spurs last week.
"I didn't know what was going to happen if I was going to have to go back overseas or whatever," he said.
The Jazz, meanwhile, had been watching Thomas for some time. Utah officials had planned to bring Thomas in for a two-day workout this summer before a foot injury forced him to cancel.
Back home in San Diego last week, Thomas was getting a pedicure with his mother when he got the call that the Jazz had claimed him.
"It's not too manly, but that's what I was doing," he said.
In the Jazz, Thomas believes he's found the right place.
"I just know they're young and they play hard. … And that's what I do, so I feel like it's a good fit for me," he said. "It was hard to crack the rotation in San Antonio with a team that had been together for so long. But I feel like this is a great opportunity for me seeing as how we're all around the same age and we can build chemistry."
In Thomas, the Jazz have a "hustle guy" to evaluate for the rest of the year. But Thomas said he brings that and more to the court.
"I feel like people who saw me in the beginning thought that I was just athletic and nothing else," said Thomas, who has made 16 NBA appearances, averaging 1.1 points and 1.8 rebounds in 5.4 minutes. "But I feel like I've developed a lot. I can shoot a little bit now. I can post up. But I'm really just energy, defense, rebounding. That's pretty much my game so far."
Jazz coach Ty Corbin said he'll integrate his newest player slowly.
"We'll get him on the floor and see how much time we can use him in practice to get him up to speed," Corbin said. "We'll simplify some things down for him to be able to get some action on the floor."