Jazz best friends Georges Niang, Naz Mitrou-Long use positive peer pressure to push each other

Jazz best friends Georges Niang, Naz Mitrou-Long use positive peer pressure to push each other

LAS VEGAS — Food. Gym. Movies.

It’s pretty much the same routine for Georges Niang and Naz Mitrou-Long.

Living in the same Salt Lake City apartment for the summer, the best friends and Utah Jazz Summer League teammates bond through basketball.

“It sounds boring, but that’s all we do,” Mitrou-Long explained.

And the connection is paying off.

That’s how Mitrou-Long was able to spot a streaking Niang seamlessly for a fastbreak jam over No. 4 pick Jaren Jackson Jr. during a July 3 game versus the Memphis Grizzles in the Utah Jazz Summer League.

The thing with me and him that makes us such good friends and best friends is we’re always peer pressuring each other to get the most out of each other
Georges Niang on friendship with Naz Mitrou-Long

“What did I see on it? I seen a nice poster,” Mitrou-Long described, laughing. “That was big time. Go purchase that if it’s out there anywhere, but it was special. That chemistry. We made that eye contact and he took off and he running faster than I ever seen Georges run and lo and behold he jumped higher than I ever seen him jump, so it was a special connection right there.”

The AAU circuit in high school is how Niang and Mitrou-Long first became aware of each other.

Then they personally connected again on an Iowa State recruiting trip in 2011 before spending four seasons together as ISU teammates in Ames, Iowa, from 2012-16.

Iowa State's Georges Niang, right, celebrates with Nazareth Mitrou-Long during the closing seconds of an NCAA college basketball game against Illinois at the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. Iowa State defeated Illinois 84-73. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

They sometimes reminisce over those Big 12 titles and NCAA Tournament appearances as ex-Cyclones, but they’re just as focused on the present with both looking to secure NBA roster spots. On Tuesday, the duo combined for 21 points in a 98-90 Jazz loss to the Miami Heat at the Thomas & Mack Center in Sin City.

Niang is a restricted free agent, who spent time as a two-way playerlast season while Mitrou-Long also signed a two-way deal — and a pair of 10-day contracts — in Utah before being waived for Niang on Jan. 13.

“I think people peer pressure each other in life sometimes to do bad things, but I think the thing with me and him that makes us such good friends and best friends is we’re always peer pressuring each other to get the most out of each other,” Niang said. “That’s why we get along so well.”

As roommates, Mitrou-Long witnesses Niang flex his guns and show off his developing abs from time to time. It’s a product of his slimmer frame and improved quickness this offseason. Seeing those results make them go harder in the gym.

“Both of us are extremely competitive, and whatever we’re doing in the day, when we text each other or call each other we’re saying ‘well, what did you do today?’ and it’s like well I did more or I did this or I did that,’ so I think pushing each other on a day-to-day basis,” Niang said. “We did that from afar and now that we’re together I think it really just brings the best out of us.”

Denver Nuggets point guard Monte Morris is also paying close attention to his former ISU teammates, while also shining in his current summer league situation. They all share that same drive to excel on the NBA level.


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“I know them personally, so I know they’re pushing each other everyday to get better,” Morris said of Niang and Mitrou-Long. “It’s definitely motivation because when we were at Iowa State, everybody thought Niang wouldn’t be able to play in the league, they thought Naz was an overseas guy and they said I was too small to play in the NBA and now we’re just proving everybody wrong so doing this is big time and it motivates everybody around us.”

Only time will tell if the buddies will suit up for the Jazz together in the regular season, but for now they’re enjoying every minute of this experience.

The food, gym and movies routine never gets old.

“It’s special,” Mitrou-Long said. “Not a lot of people get to have guys that they genuinely love around them, especially guys who push you on and off the court. When you have somebody like that who pushes you off the court, it carries on on the court.”

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Published at Wed, 11 Jul 2018 00:36:00 +0000