Jarrod Uthoff lost track of what day it was during his second, and final, 10-day contract with the Mavericks this past week. “I have no idea,” he told the NBPA over the weekend.
But it was that confidence, in addition to his work ethic, length, shooting and versatility, that the team admired enough to sign him on Wednesday to a two-year contract—his first long-term one in the NBA. The same night, he scored his first career points. After going undrafted last year and playing in the D-League (for the Raptors 905 and Fort Wayne Mad Ants), the 23-year-old’s NBA career began on March 9 with the Mavericks. And as it turns out, he didn’t even know that day until a few hours later.
“I was on a plane going actually on a 10-day road trip on the west coast,” he said, reflecting on first signing with the Mavericks, who initially liked him during the pre-draft process, according to his agent, Adam Pensack. “When I landed in Salt Lake City, I turned my phone back on from the airplane mode, and I had about a thousand missed calls and texts and everything saying, ‘Call me, call me, call me.’ So I called my agent right away and he told me, and the rest is history.”
During his second 10-day contract, Uthoff made headlines after being spotted by his head coach, Rick Carlisle, at a convenience store in Toronto buying a loaf of bread and some deli meat. “I said, ‘Hey, you’re on NBA per diem now. You can splurge a little bit,'” Carlisle said recently, sharing the fun moment with Dallas media. As for Uthoff, he was just being himself. “I’m not less or more frugal,” he said.
But the story got us thinking: What is the lifestyle and mindset like for a player in the case of Uthoff? Below are 10 things to know about a player on a 10-day contract, which helped Uthoff land a multi-year deal. The story is presented in his first-person perspective and edited for clarity and length.
1. Remain Positive and Confident About the NBA
I sensed the NBA would happen ever since the end of Christmas, especially after the trade to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, when I got more of an opportunity to play. Once I got an opportunity, I knew that good things were going to happen. Things started clicking and I had a great opportunity to showcase my abilities. I really started to feel like I had a grasp of the NBA system and how to be successful in it. I was confident in my abilities. I knew I belonged in the NBA.
2. Remember What Got You Here
There’s a reason why I’m with the Mavericks. There is a reason why every guy gets a call up; the team already likes you, they know basically what you can do. I’m sure things like my work ethic and positive attitude came into play. And you just have to wait for your opportunity to see the basketball court. And if that opportunity doesn’t come, then you just need to be satisfied with being yourself and knowing that you’re staying ready no matter what. I think they want to see me play. So I think eventually I’ll get my shot and get an opportunity to showcase my abilities.
3. Be Realistic
When I first signed on March 9, Adam told me, “Sometimes it’s tough. Sometimes you come there and you have a couple practices and you don’t even get in any games, and then 10 days are up. You don’t really get too much of an opportunity. But every opportunity is proof that you have to take advantage of it as best you can.” Over my two 10-day contracts, I definitely felt more comfortable—not more pressure. There’s no pressure because there’s nothing to lose. You have everything to gain basically. There’s no place to go, but up.
4. Seek Advice from All Angles
I was trying to soak in as much as I could, listening to everything and learning from every little thing I can. This whole team is fantastic. I’m sure a lot of people say that, but I actually believe it. All these guys have been super to me and very welcoming. I feel a connection to Dallas.
5. Take Advantage of Any Little Practice Time
It’s tough during the season for any team to practice a lot because there are so many games during the NBA season. But during practices, typically you’ve got a first team, a second team, and they’re already kind of set in that way. So whenever you can get in and get a rep, I think it’s important to just seize that opportunity as best you can. Remember the plays, know the plays and when you’re asked to do something, you do it.
6. Keep to a Routine and Healthy Eating
I’m an extremely hard worker. I rarely go out and I go to sleep early. I focus on getting shots up any time I can. I do what I think I need to be the best basketball player I can be, including watching what I eat. During my 10-day contracts, I wasn’t more or less frugal. I just always focus on staying healthy. Sometimes it’s hard to get healthy food when you’re really hungry. So you get a loaf of healthy bread to make sandwiches instead of a late-night burger, which is a lot better. That way, in case you ever get hungry, you can just make a sandwich.
7. Adapt to Any Situation
I haven’t always been someone who adjusted to change so quickly. But over the course of this experience—and over the last year and even a couple years in college—I’ve actually kind of embraced the change. I actually kind of like it. I stay in hotels and play basketball. It’s what I’ve been doing for the last year. I’m just grateful for the opportunity.
8. Pack the Essentials
I brought a couple pairs of shorts, a couple pairs of sweatpants, a couple pairs of everything. And I brought my books along with me. I’ve been reading Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan, Order to Kill: A Novel and David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giant. Order to Kill is an action-fiction book, and the rest I really enjoyed more as informational books.
9. Set Different Benchmarks
My first 10-day contract was exciting for me because I knew what it meant. It gave me an opportunity to showcase my abilities on an NBA team. It was rewarding, I was grateful for it and I hope that I could make the most out of it—that was my thought process at the time. But my first goal was to sign a full NBA contract, and it has been accomplished. It’s a huge stepping stone, but I’m looking forward to the future. I want to work my way up and be a starter.
10. Believe You Can Be a Playoff Contributor
That would be amazing. The playoffs are what it’s about. You want to win an NBA championship, so any time you get a chance to do that when you’re in the playoffs, I think it’s fantastic. I’m very excited for this great opportunity and to be a part of the Mavs organization. I’m grateful for it and I’m very happy for it.