How Danuel House Jr. found a home with the Utah Jazz

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SALT LAKE CITY — On what coach Quin Snyder jokingly called a "cold dark day in January," Danuel House Jr. joined the Utah Jazz on the first of his three 10-day contracts.

Utah was in Toronto without just about every member of its regular rotation, who were either in COVID-19 protocols or back in the United States to avoid any trouble getting back across the border. House was a new member of the team, but he was needed in the worst way.

He was dealing with his own troubles in the form of a broken finger, though. But House took the court anyway.

"We needed him to play and he played," Snyder said.

That early moment helped epitomize House's short time with the Jazz: House came to Utah looking for a home. The 28-year-old wing knew he still belonged in the league, he just needed to convince a team of that.

He'd do anything — guard anybody, start, come off the bench, dive on the floor, even play with a broken finger.

"Only thing I wanted to do is just control my effort," House said. "Just leave it within the front office and the coaches hands to sort of be like, 'All right, we need this guy.'"

Last week, after waiting through the trade deadline, House finally got confirmation he had done just that; the Jazz signed him to a deal for the rest of the season.

"It's the best feeling in the world," House said. "The way the season's been going, it's been rocky, especially for me, so to be able to get more stability, it eases the mind."

House was waived by Houston in December. That wasn't necessarily unexpected, but it caused a lot of uncertainty. He had struggled during the early part of the season and didn't fit into the Rockets' rebuild plan, so they let him go to sign younger players. Houston said it waived House instead of trading him so he could pick his next team.

There weren't too many suitors.

He signed a 10-day hardship contract with the Knicks, but New York didn't bring him back once it expired. A few days later, he signed a similar deal with the Jazz. This one, however, provided more opportunity, and more of a familiar situation.

In a lot of ways, the Jazz needed the same things out of House that the Rockets did when James Harden was running the show. They wanted him to space the floor, take open shots and be a gritty perimeter defender. It was almost like the perfect pair.

That allowed House to seamlessly fit into the team, as general manager Justin Zanik said.

"He's been around and he's been on some really good teams and played along side some really great players and seen a lot," Mike Conley said. "So him coming in on 10 days isn't the normal 10-day kind of experience."

Conley said his experience provided leadership from Day 1 with the team. His effort on the court allowed him to earn immediate respect with his teammates, especially with how he attacks the game defensively.

"You have a guy who's proven himself as a defender in this league, whose played in big playoff games, which I think provides some some confidence," Snyder said.

Snyder went on to name a lot of the ways House impacts game: ability to defend, shoot 3-pointers, play with "juice and enthusiasm," and a willingness to make winning plays.

That described essentially the perfect NBA role player.

In Houston, House had a major role on championship contending teams. He showed flashes of brilliance — focused perimeter defense coupled with a more than good enough outside shot — to make him a contributor during deep playoff runs.

So it begs the question: Why was he available for the whole league to get with a simple 10-day contract?

As one Rockets beat writer put it: "He'll break your heart." One game of brilliance is followed by two or three where he'd disappear. Can he find more consistency in Utah? Maybe. If not, those flashes are still worth it for a Jazz team trying to find their own consistency on the defensive end.

"He enjoys making plays defensively," Rudy Gobert said. "I love it. I think it's contagious. When you have guys like Trent (Forrest), like him, Donovan (Mitchell) is diving the floor, Mike has his hand everywhere, it's contagious. It's really becoming who we are as a team."

Saturday night, a number of Jazz players went to the Ice Cube concert — Jordan Clarkson even went out and danced on stage — but House wasn't among them. It's not that he didn't want to be there; he just had something more pressing.

"I would have loved to melt down with the Cube," he said. "But I had to find a place to live."

House has found a new home.

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