To make room for Pau Gasol, the Spurs have reportedly traded Boris Diaw to Utah. This is a good, sensible basketball move for the Spurs, and a foreboding development for the future of Diaw. The 34-year-old Frenchman could certainly contribute solid minutes to the Jazz, but the likelihood of that happening depends on one of the most notoriously mercurial players in the league remaining dedicated to giving his full effort.
Four years ago, Diaw was on his way out of the league fast. He was overweight, grumpy, and utterly adrift on one of the the worst teams in NBA history. The Charlotte Bobcats waived him in March 2012 when they were 7-37. Veterans try to negotiate their way off of dreadful teams all the time, but Diaw’s physical deterioration and unwillingness to pitch in and help Charlotte painted him as a player who was not interested in or committed to basketball.
Two days later, he signed with the Spurs, beginning a remarkable late-career surge. His efficiency numbers immediately improved, he emerged as San Antonio’s secret weapon against LeBron James in their championship season. The Spurs wrote a clause into his 2014 contract that awarded him bonuses for meeting weight limit benchmarks, but he did not appear to need extra motivation to keep the Spurs ticking. Gregg Popovich and the Spurs’ veteran core got through to him. Whether he can replicate that engagement in Utah, in one of the least metropolitan cities in the NBA, without Popovich needling him is another matter.
He’s got fellow Frenchman Rudy Gobert around in Utah, and the Jazz appear to be headed towards the playoffs next year, so he’ll have plenty to play for, unlike with Charlotte. But everyone knows that a happy Diaw is a well-fed Diaw. This is a man who showed up at pre-draft workouts wearing flip flops and sipping a cappuccino, who keeps an espresso machine in his locker, and has the Instagram account of a food writer.
Will Salt Lake City offer enough culinary culture to keep Diaw happy? I spoke with a Salt Lake City food person to get a sense of what sort of environment he’s heading into. Devin Auchterlonie is a former cook at Pago, and he told me that while Salt Lake was not much of a French cuisine town, Diaw will have no shortage of pastry options:
Les Madeleine’s is a Frenchish bakery that’s super good, they do this pastry named Kouign-amann. Eva’s Bakery makes a ton of really good fresh bread. Tullie is another good spot. Total hipster spot with 7 dollar tiny coffee, but high-quality food.
Auchterlonie also described the coffee options as, “solid,” and he recommended Diaw try La Barba. In general, the food scene is, “On the up for sure, but talking to people who are from SLC, no matter how many cool new places open, it never really changes. The ‘cool places’ become totally overrun with jabronis because they are so limited.”
So there you have it. Good thing is, it appears BoBo is more into craft than that fancy shit. However, Utah’s anti-alcohol laws mean it will be harder for Diaw to swill a glass of Bordeaux. Will the Zion curtains hold him back? I hope not.