DeMarre Carroll still hasn't adjusted to the weather in Salt Lake City going into his second year with the Utah Jazz.
"Oh, man -- it's super cold out here," said Carroll, a Birmingham, Ala., native. "I'm a South boy."
But Carroll feels he has finally found a great spot in the NBA. In fact, he's having the best season of his four-year career, playing a key role off the bench as an energy guy for the Jazz, who are currently in playoff position. On the season, the 6-foot-8 forward is averaging 6.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and nearly one steal in 17.4 minutes per game.
When you also factor in the rocky road Carroll has traveled since he was a kid, his settled feeling makes even more sense. When he was 6 years old, his older brother, DeLonté, died from a brain tumor. Years later, in July 2007, while DeMarre was "trying to play hero," as he puts it, protecting some of his Missouri teammates during a disturbance outside a nightclub, he was shot in the ankle. That same year, an itchy feeling on his legs turned out to be a symptom of liver disease, which in 20 to 25 years could require a transplant.
Even after Carroll was a first-round draft pick in 2009 by the Memphis Grizzlies, he played limited minutes. The next three years included being assigned to the D-League and getting waived by the Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets before finally signing with the Jazz last February.
This season, he has found a niche with his defense and offensive play in the paint. And his teammates love having him around. Al Jefferson came up with a nickname for him, Marvin Williams constantly sends him meal suggestions, and Earl Watson is always in his ear about how to take advantage of his athletic ability.
Speaking with ESPN Playbook, Carroll discusses his helpful teammates and much more:
Best dancer: "Our rookie has this dance, and he was pretty funny. Kevin Murphy. He's got that two-step. He's from Atlanta, so he's got that Atlanta dance; I don't know what it's called."
Best dressed: "It's easily got to be me. [Laughs.] I'm real outgoing. I like to wear True Religion. Everybody loves my style. I don't really have a favorite accessory; I just switch it up. I wear something different every day. You've got to switch it up. The only thing in my closet is True Religion. I need to get a contract with them because that's all I wear. I just did an interview at the True Religion store [in Salt Lake City]. I gave them an interview, and they gave me a little gift card. I think after this year my marketing people are really going to try to get me something with True Religion."
Best nickname: "Enes Kanter. They call him Big Turkey. He's from there, and Al [Jefferson] started calling him that because one day he was just eating turkey. Pretty much everyone on the team has got a nickname. Everyone calls me The Junkyard Dog."
Biggest fitness nut: "Probably Marvin Williams. He's big into always getting shots up and eating healthy. He's actually right next door to me. He's always sending me food because he says I need to eat more healthy. I like fried food because I'm [from] Alabama -- I like fried chicken -- so he always tries to send me baked stuff, like baked salmon and broccoli and all that type of stuff. He's a good teammate. He always tries to tell me to do the right thing. It works. He actually got me eating more healthy."
Coolest car: "I think Earl Watson has the best car. He's got the brand-new Aston Martin, four-door. He got it in white, and he's got everything red inside, a red interior. It's pretty sweet, especially around here in Utah. If you're driving around an Aston Martin, people are looking at you like, 'Wow.'"
Funniest: "Al Jefferson. He's just cracking jokes all the time, especially at Enes Kanter. He gave me the nickname Mophead because my hair is like a mop. He says, 'Hey, Mophead, come here!' It's pretty funny."
Future coach: "It's probably got to be Earl Watson. He always goes in with us in the second unit, and we're a young second unit. He's always trying to come up with little nicks and nacks that we can use. He's helped me. The biggest thing with me, he just tells me that I'm so athletic and I should run and get easy baskets, because for my size I'm one of the fastest guys in the league."
Most inspirational: "I would have to say probably Jamaal Tinsley. He just tries to switch it up what he says and just lets everybody know every game is big and we need everybody. For the guys who don't even play, he tries to keep them encouraged."
Most interesting pregame routine: "Every time I check into the game, I have a little routine. I walk up to the scorer's table and I draw a heart on the floor, and then I kiss it before I go into the game. I do it to honor my older brother.
"Also, Mo Williams has got this little weird routine. He does the same thing every game. He comes in, he takes a shower, he always has ice on his feet no matter if his feet hurt or not, and then he goes in the training room and sits on the training table with his Beats headphones. He's the last person to shoot."
Most unique off-the-court talent: "Jeremy Evans can draw very, very well. A lot of people don't know that. He draws all kinds of pictures. People are trying to buy his pictures, but he won't sell them. He says he just does it for a hobby. He's got like a whole gallery in his house. He drew one picture that was auctioned off at one of our events last year. I think it went for like $1,000 or something like that."