SALT LAKE CITY — Kevin Murphy is learning how to be a rookie again.
The 22-year-old Jazz guard, selected with the No. 47 pick in last year’s draft, is back on the bench with the big boys. Last month, however, he was laboring with the Reno Big Horns of the NBA Development League.
For a while Wednesday night it appeared he might actually get some quality minutes against the Washington Wizards but the Jazz blew a 22-point first-half lead, meaning Murphy stayed put on the bench in the second half.
Chalk it up to being part of the learning process.
Jazz officials sent Murphy to the D-League in November because he was getting precious little playing time. The team figured he’d be better off getting regular minutes in the D-League, plus they gave him a charge to polish his skills as a leader and a professional off the court.
“It was good to just get a chance to play,” Murphy said. “Being up here (in the NBA) sitting and watching a lot – and still learning – (is a positive thing) but being able to play is the best thing.”
Murphy, who averaged 13 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists in Reno, rejoined the Jazz in Charlotte, N.C. on Jan. 9. He was recalled to add an extra body to the roster while starting point guard Mo Williams recovers from surgery on his right thumb.
Murphy keeps a low profile around his teammates, though he does get his share of rookie razzing.
“I’ve just been up here working hard in practice, being a good team guy,” he said. “I just try to push my teammates in practice, play hard and earn some playing time.”
Murphy made news back in October when he showed up to training camp for a few hours but quickly returned to his home in Atlanta when his wife went into labor with their first child.
Little Kevin Jr. is now four months old and Kevin Sr. remains a proud father.
“He’s getting bigger, he’s trying to figure out what’s going on around him every day,” he said.
Murphy’s young family set up in Salt Lake last fall and remained here for a few weeks after Kevin was sent to Reno. Murphy’s wife and son have since moved back to Atlanta.
Jazz 92, Wizards 88
• BEST PLAY: With 5:58 left before halftime, Gordon Hayward drives on Washington’s Martell Webster with a behind-the-back dribble followed by a layup. Webster is called for the foul and Hayward sinks the free throw for a three-point play to give the Jazz a 47-25 lead.
• BEST LINE: Paul Millsap scored 16 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, had three assists, three steals and two blocked shots for the Jazz.
• KEY STAT: Each team had 51 rebounds. On a night when the Jazz led by as many as 22 points, their inability to push the Wizards out of the paint kept them from a blowout win.
• SIDELINE MOMENT: After Hayward’s highlight-reel layup on Webster capped an 11-0 Jazz run, Jamaal Tinsley jumped up from his spot on the bench and waves a towel to cool down his red-hot teammates.
• INJURY REPORT: Mo Williams (right thumb) missed the game for the Jazz. The Wizards went without guard Cartier Martin (left knee).
• UP NEXT: The Jazz will travel to L.A. to face the Lakers on Friday, then return home to play host to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.