Former Weber State guard Nick Covington took to the court at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Tuesday, July 15 in his No. 71 blue Utah Jazz summer league jersey issued by adidas. Be honest, you probably didn’t expect much. In fact, you were probably surprised that after the Utah Jazz cut Covington last fall during training camp, he’d be back in a Jazz uniform at all.
But Covington is back, and on Tuesday at the NBA summer league against the Denver Nuggets, he even played 11 minutes--noteworthy for reasons you'll discover--in the Jazz 87-69 win. It was a victory that took the spotlight off of stars like Trey Burke and Dante Exum--centering instead on players who are fighting to make the team.
Jazz guard Ian Clark--another unceremonious player who had 17 points in the win--couldn’t find anyone open in the fourth quarter. That is, until he saw Covington alone in the coffin corner, unguarded. Clark hurled a pass to Covington, who snatched it and threw up a three point shot.
It went in. The 6-foot-1 inch, 200-pound Covington had just scored his first points of the 2014 NBA Summer League. Later in the fourth Covington got another opportunity. Knowing in the back of his mind that most summer league players get few opportunities to impress the team they’re playing for--or the other teams watching--Covington found himself open again in the coffin corner, late in the shot clock.
Which brings us to another point of interest: Covington's topsy-turvy basketball career. Covington has whirled himself around the world, playing in some interesting locales after a decidedly average collegiate turn at Weber State where he scored just six points per game.
That’s right. Covington was no Damian Lillard, the person you see palling around with Trey in the accompanying photo because Covington himself isn't important enough, apparently, to have a Getty photo. For crying out loud, Covington wasn’t even a Davion Berry, this summer’s Weber State sensation currently playing with the Portland Trail Blazers in Vegas.
But Covington is one thing without question. He's a fighter, a survivor. He spent six years after Weber languishing in places like snowy Estonia and chilly Ireland and even snake-bit Romania chasing his basketball dream.
Then Covington decided to come back home and try to make it in the NBA, a stretch since he’s never been a scorer--or come close to being one. He had dreams of playing at Madison Square Garden like every other basketball player, but ended up in D-League cities like Sioux Falls and Des Moines, snowy outposts that rivaled more of what he saw in Estonia than some big city.
Those places--along with Erie, Pennsylvania--changed how NBA teams looked at Covington. One team in particular was very interested: the Utah Jazz. The Jazz brought Covington in for fall training camp last year but his time in that spotlight was pre-empted by an injury.
Fast forward to Tuesday. Covington stands alone, in the corner of a basketball court, a spot he’s been in many times in his eight-year pro career. The shot clock is about to go down, again, on yet another opportunity for him to make the big time.
Does Covington take this off-balance shot and risk being the laughingstock of the cavernous arena as he falls into the second or third row--or worse yet, into a Getty photographer? Or, does Covington dish it off--even if the reason he has the ball is that nobody else was open?
Here’s the reality: Covington is a three-point shooter and that’s all he is. So, when you do what you do well, you take the shot. Off-balance or not, and having little to no chance of going in from anyone's vantage point, his shot still splashed the net for his sixth point Tuesday yet nobody remembered it--much like his heroic but largely ignored basketball career.