A 6-foot-4 point guard, Owens went undrafted out of the University of Houston in 2005 but signed as a free agent with Utah. In his rookie season, Owens appeared in 23 games and even earned a pair of starts. He was a surprising contributor to a mediocre Jazz team, and when the pounding in his left leg started to manifest itself, Owens grit his teeth and continued forward. Then the pain increased. And increased. He began to limp a bit—“shin splints, I figured,” Owens says. Finally, a team doctor insisted upon an X-ray. The results were nightmarish—Owens had been playing with a hairline fracture than extended through his tibia. His season was over after 23 games (he averaged three points, one assist and 1.1 rebounds).
A player Jerry Sloan had repeatedly praised was no longer of service to the organization, and that offseason he was traded to Golden State. “The whole experience changed everything for me,” Owens says. “It’s when I learned—really learned—that it’s all a business, and it’s really not just about talent and drive. It’s about where you’re drafted, how much money you’re owed. Stuff that’s out of your control.”