In case you were not aware, August 13th is officially Left-Handers Day. With that in mind, and because it is also interesting to review Jazz history, it seems fitting that Salt City Hoops takes a look back at Utah’s southpaws.
According to Basketball Reference, there have been 17 left-handed players in franchise history:
Mark Eaton: Eaton could be one of the most improbable stories in NBA history. A bit player at UCLA, he was working as the world’s tallest auto mechanic when Jazz coach Frank Layden discovered him. Through hard work, Eaton became an absolute defensive force. A two-time Defensive Player of the Year (with five All-Defensive team honors along the way), the 7’4″ center paced the NBA in blocked shots four times. He posted an NBA record with 456 swats (5.56 BPG) in 1984-85 and finished with a league-best 3.5 BPG career mark. Eaton also made one All-Star team and had his #53 retired by the Jazz. Injuries hampered the twilight of his career, but he did not miss more than three games in any of his 10 first seasons. And in the historic 1988 second-round series, Eaton gave Kareem Abdul-Jabbar fits. Not bad for a left-handed center taken in the fourth round.1
C.J. Miles: Miles is sometimes maligned among Jazz fans, as there seemed to be untapped potential in the athletic, talented swingman. In fairness to him, it should be remembered that Miles was a second-round pick drafted right out of high school. Miles was a classic streaky shooter. There were outings like his 40-point performance in 2011. There were also games where he shot himself out of the game. All in all, Miles gave Utah seven solid seasons and will be asked to step up in Indiana in wake of Paul George’s injury.
John Crotty: Crotty spent five seasons backing-up John Stockton over two stints. While his first three years were so-so, his return to Utah was much more productive (6.9 PPG, 3.4 APG with some great shooting numbers in 2001-02). The lefty was a crafty player who, as a solid locker room presence, went from undrafted rookie to 11-year career.
Freddie Boyd: The little-known guard toiled for three seasons in New Orleans, having his best campaign in 1977 (9.9 PPG, 3.1 APG).
Gail Goodrich: The five-time All-Star and former All-NBA guard finished a nice career with the New Orleans Jazz, signing as a free agent in 1976. While injuries and age were factors, Goodrich had three nice seasons, posting 16.1 PPG and 4.8 APG in 1977-78.
Stephen Howard: Another “two-timing” Jazz player, Howard was a surprisingly productive player in his sparse playing time. He was the 12th man on the memorable 1997 NBA Finals squad.
Allan Bristow: An all-around utility player, Bristow had a pair of solid seasons in an Utah uniform. In 1979-80, he put up 11.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG and 4.2 APG for the Jazz. “Disco” also played one year in the ABA. Bristow went on to coach the entertaining, early 1990s Charlotte Hornets squads that featured Larry Johnson and Muggsy Bogues.
James Donaldson: The former Dallas Mavericks stalwart and former All-Star spent his final two years with the Jazz, signing twice as insurance for the injured Eaton and Felton Spencer. At 37 years old, he even started for Utah his final year.
Carl Nicks: Nicks backed up Rickey Green for two seasons, averaging 7.4 PPG but just 1.1 APG in 16.5 MPG in 1981-82.
Derek Fisher: Much has been said about Fisher’s departure from the Jazz, but he was a heady influence on a young team that made it to the Western Conference Finals. He was acquired from the Golden State Warriors for a song (Andre Owens, Devin Brown and Keith McLeod). In an interesting move, Jerry Sloan opted to start the 6’1″ Fisher at shooting guard alongside Deron Williams2. His numbers were not stellar (10.1 PPG on 38% FGs and 3o% 3s), but he added another playmaker who could hold his own defensively. And his game 2 effort versus the Warriors is among the most memorable moments in Jazz history.
Calbert Cheaney: Cheaney was another in a long-line of vets the Jazz signed in hopes of keeping the Stockton/Malone teams in contention. The left-handed spent just one year with Utah as the starting shooting guard. He was unspectacular, averaging just 8.6 PPG in 29.0 MPG (and just 4.4 PPG in the Playoffs).
There were several other southpaws who spent just one season with Utah, including Andris Biedrins last year (the others: Keon Clark, Todd Fuller, Brooks Thompson, Aaron Williams, Terry Furlow and Neal Walk).
Utah adds one more left-hander this year in rookie Rodney Hood. Hood’s stealthy play in summer league has Jazz faithful excited about his potential to be an impactful player for years to come.