STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Jonas Jerebko’s move to NBA title favorites the Golden State Warriors is paying off handsomely for the Swedish power forward who suffered the indignity of being cut by the Utah Jazz.
The 31-year-old capped his revenge by rocking the Jazz with a late basket to give the Warriors a memorable 124-123 victory on his return to Salt Lake City on Oct. 19, celebrating wildly in front of the Utah bench for good measure.
“I know that I have a lot to give, I want to play and I can play,” he told Reuters in an interview.
Since then Jerebko, who played for the Detroit Pistons (2009-15) before joining the Boston Celtics (2015-17), has not looked back, posting his best averages for scoring (7.6 points per game) and minutes played (20.7) for several years.
Jerebko had just finished a workout on the full-size basketball court at his Detroit home last July when the call came to tell him that he was no longer in Utah coach Quin Snyder’s plans, but things moved quickly.
“I promise you it was like two hours, maybe one hour, before my agent called and said that Golden State were interested, so I didn’t even have the time to worry,” he said.
“I asked if I could talk to (Warriors) coach (Steve) Kerr, and I got to talk to him soon after, so I barely had time to be worried about my situation.”
Jerebko was limited to six minutes against Oklahoma City on the opening night of the season, but in the following game against Utah Kerr threw him into the fray for 24 minutes and he scored 10 points, including the game-winning basket.
“When I tipped the ball I just checked to see if it went in and when it did, you’re just so happy. It probably wouldn’t have made any difference if it was Utah or the Lakers or Oklahoma, it was just pure joy about winning the game,” he said.
“But ten minutes after, I thought to myself, ‘Damn, it was nice to do that against Utah!’ Really, though, in the moment it was about winning the game with my new team, and tipping the ball in myself was the icing on the cake.”
The game-winning basket may have helped cement Jerebko’s reputation in a team of big names, such as Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant, but the Swede said he had felt at home since day one in Oakland.
“I’ve played against these guys before, I knew Draymond, I knew Steph, I knew KD from before. I haven’t had this kind of confidence from the team since my Detroit Pistons days, I just have to thank the coach for his confidence,” he said.
A bust-up between Green and Durant during a loss to the LA Clippers dominated some of the early-season headlines around the champions, but Jerebko said the conflict was blown out of proportion by the media.
“I’ve played in this league for ten years, and every year I’ve seen things ten times worse - this is nothing. It’s just because we play with the Warriors, everything gets hyped up,” he said.
Jerebko’s focus is on winning an NBA championship, but when the Warriors meet the Jazz again on Dec. 19 he wants to give his old team another reminder of what they lost when he was waived.
“It’s going to be fun to go back - I want to beat them again, and I want to show them that it was a big mistake to let me go,” he said laughing.
Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Ken Ferris