off-season with two goals: resign Donyell Marshall to a long
contract and not go over the luxury tax threshold. Things got ugly
fast when Marshall wanted to start negotiations at a number that was
several million above what would keep the Jazz under the luxury tax
The Jazz were
looking forward a year, knowing they needed a team leader and a go
to guy, but were not willing to jeopardize that future by
The Jazz quickly turned to Matt Harpring to be the player that could
be the future leader of the Jazz. When it was first announced that
the Jazz were in negotiations with Harpring to take over Marshall's
role, most people saw it as a ploy to get Marshall to drop his pay
demands. It wasn't long after that, the news of Harpring agreeing to
terms was released. It was an ugly day in Jazzland. Harpring's
signing meant Marshall would not be back. Many fans saw this as the
Jazz simply giving up. Local sports radio stations were filled with
angry callers complaining that the Jazz gave up and vowing that they
would never again support the team.
Many of the fans believed that in one move the Jazz got less
talented. To be fair, they may have been right. The Jazz might have
dropped a level in talent, but they raised several levels in heart
and hard work. It did not take long for Jazz fans to come to that
realization. In the space of the season, Harpring became a Jazz fan
This year, Matt Harpring is taking it a step farther. He is working
hard, giving his all, and proving that he is the right choice to be
the cornerstone of the Jazz future. He is quietly leading a team
that some picked to be the worst team of all time and win as few as
8 games, and helping make them a team that is fun to watch and
nowhere near as bad as people thought. Why shouldn't they be
exciting to watch? Especially, when the team captain is willing to
battle everyday and everynight.
I had the opportunity to talk with Matt Harpring about his life, his
career, his work ethic, and his team. When you talk to Matt about
basketball, you can tell he has a passion for it. You can feel good
knowing that he is the leader on the team, and when he says, "I just
know that when you play hard and give it your all, good things will
happen." You know just what you have been watching the Jazz do this
year, and what you can expect them to do as long as Matt Harpring is
JH-First off, we would like to congratulate you on a big summer. We
understand that you had a pretty big off-season acquisition.
MH-Yeah, I tied the knot. Itís good. I am having a good time.
JH- You know, you might have been the most eligible bachelor in Salt
Lake for a year.
MH- I found a great woman, and I am much happier married than not
married; I know that.
JH- When you guys were out looking for houses, were you at all
tempted to look at Karl Maloneís old place?
MH- No. no. I am not that extravagant. I donít need that big of a
house. Itís just me and my wife and thatís all we got.
JH-Besides your wedding what kind of things did you this summer -
what do you do to keep in shape?
MH- I work out a lot. I workout every day. I have a couple
treadmills and stairmaster and a little bit of everything at home. I
use that a lot, and I go to the gym to play, and I lift weights at
Georgia Tech. I work out a lot in the off-season and stay in shape.
You know this summer we went to a lot of weddings. It seems like a
lot of my friends got married. It seemed like I was doing something
every weekend. I did some camps, you know, my Matt Harpring
Basketball Camp. I had one week out here and two weeks back in
JH- I heard a lot of the kids that went to your camp ended up making
their school team.
MH- It was a camp. I will do it again this summer.
JH- What is the biggest piece of advice you give to the kids that
come to these camps?
MH- Practice. It's something that when I talk to them, I talk to
them about my situation, I was never really highly recruited coming
out of high school. I had to work and continue to work all the time.
It's just being in the gym you know putting the hours in - donít go
home and play Nintendo and watch TV. Put those hours into going out
and shooting baskets, going out and playing in the yard, get your
neighbors together and get a pickup game going, go play football.
Just be active. It doesnít have to be basketball. I just hate it
when kids come home and waste their time in front of the TV.
JH- You mention that you go back to Georgia Tech to play some pickup
games. Do you ever point up to the rafters and show them your
MH- (Laughing) No, I think they know itís there.
JH- Last night, you hauled in a career high 19 rebounds. Also, you
are tied for 9th in the NBA for offensive rebounds per game so far
this year. Are you concentrating on rebounds this year?
MH- Rebounding is always something I love doing. Itís just part of
the game. Thatís why I like the 3 position, and even the 4, because
I have always been able to get inside and be physical down there;
thatís kinda my game.
In College I averaged right around 10 rebounds a game. I just like
rebounding; itís a fun part of the game for me. There are so many
aspects of basketball outside scoring, and people give so much
attention to scoring, and scoring is only one aspect of the game.
There are a lot of things that make a good basketball player. You
got to do the little things - thatís another thing I try to preach
in my camp and let these kids know that coaches look for guys who do
the little things, pickup loose balls, dive on the floor, rebound,
box out, pass, run the court - things like that. Do things that may
not show up in the stat sheet.
I know when I watch a game, I like to watch people that play hard.
People that play with intensity and heart, and thatís how I try to
JH- So do you have any role models? Maybe people that play like
MH- Honestly, now that I am older, no, I donít really look up to
anyone. When I watch a game, I just want to see two teams playing
hard. If I watch an NBA game, Iíll turn it off if I find out no one
is really playing, but if I find a guy in college thatís really
playing hard, Iíll watch them. I got to admit I like people that
really try hard. They might not be the best guy on the court, but if
they are playing to the best of their potential, thatís what I like
JH- Congratulations on being named the team captain.
MH- Thank you .
JH- You were named captain the day of the first game. You came out
and missed your first 5 shots. On your 6th attempt, that was the
hardest I have ever seen you dunk.
MH- (Laughing) I know.
JH- Were you feeling extra pressure to get that first basket out of
MH- Yeah, you know itís been up and down with me for shooting so
far. Itís different from last year, Last year, I got in a rhythm
right away, and this year with our team and different offensesÖ
Different games give me different rhythms. The first game I was so
ready that I was over compensating it. I was trying to do too much.
Once I got the ball on the break, I knew that I was going to dunk it
so I went up and got that little two-hand dunk in.
JH- Besides yourself, what other players have stepped up and assumed
a leadership role on the team.
MH- I think Ostertag. You know, Greg has been here a long time, and
even though I do the captainís responsibility, he helps me out a
lot. Sometimes I go to him and tell him, ďGreg, go talk to this
guy." Greg is good, and we talk a lot, and I treat him like he his
co-captain. He helps me out a lot. We brainstorm together, and it's
JH- You had to miss a year because of an ankle injury and surgery.
Do you give advice and encouragement to Lopez and Borchardt?
MH- Yeah, I tell them that they are going to get their opportunity.
Itís going to come. Donít worry about last year. Injuries happen. It
doesnít mean you are injury prone. It doesnít mean you are going to
be injury prone the rest of your career - even though fans are going
to tell you that, and you are always going to have critics. You are
going to come back from this injury and when you get the
opportunity, to make the most of it.
JH- So do you feel you have bounced back 100% from your injury?
MH- Oh yeah. With the technology today, there are very few injuries
you are not going to bounce back and be just as good as you were
JH- On ESPN last night after they showed highlights from the Jazz
game, they said, ďThe post Stockton and Malone Jazz improve to 5-0
at the Delta Center." How long will it be before this team
establishes its own identity and the only two names we continue to
hear are Stockton and Malone?
MH - It wonít be long. People tend to have short memories,
especially when you get a little successful. So I think we have
already had the fan base rally around us. A lot of people really
like the team this year.
JH- Last year, it was common to hear people say that you were
benefiting from your man cheating off you to double team Malone. How
much of that really happened?
MH- Karl didnít really get doubled all that much last year. It was
more that I benefited playing with them because they are such good
players, and Karl was a great passer out of the post, and Stockton
was a great passer out of the point. It really helped my game
because I like to cut and come off screens.
JH- Are you being guarded differently this year?
MH- Most definitely. Teams are putting their best guy on me, and
they are not leaving me. The ball can be in one corner, and I can be
in the far corner and that guy is not leaving.
JH- Do you like that challenge or do you find it frustrating at
MH- It is frustrating at times because it's harder to get those easy
shots. Itís harder to get offensive rebounds. Itís harder to get
into the game with the guy always on you. Itís different.
JH- You know, you have a lot of big quarters where you might score
more than half your points for the night in a span of 10 minutes.
How aware are you of that? Do you feel yourself in the zone?
MH- Itís just rhythm. Iím a rhythm player. When I catch a rhythm, I
can score quickly. Itís the way Iíve always been.
JH - Compared to the teamís potential - where are you guys right
MH- We didnít put any predictions on the season. We just said, "We
are going to come out and play every game as hard as we can and see
what happens." It was really hard to tell how good we were going to
be in camp and in the preseason. We just go one game at a time.
JH- Compared to your potential - where are you right now?
MH -I think I want to be shooting better percentages than I am right
now. I am kind of down on my self on that. I am playing hard and
thatís something I am always going to do. I wake up the next morning
and say, "I played my heart out."
JH- You had a fantastic college career. Do you ever look back at it
and think it was a dream?
MH- I never expected to have that kind of career growing up. My goal
was to get to college so I could get a free ride for education. It
wasnít even about sports really. Then after my Freshman year I
thought, "Hey, I might be able to make a living out of this." I
really worked hard on my game every year and I had a great coach. If
it wasnít for Bobby Cremins, I probably wouldnít be where I am right
JH- Help sell some tickets here. If there is one-thing fans should
come out and see this year - what is it?
MH- I just think if fans come out and see they will be really
surprised. They will be pleasantly surprised to see just how fun
these games are.
JH-On behalf of the members, staff, and readers at www.jazzhoops.net
, we thank you for your time and wish you the best on and off the