Jazz reach deal with forward Josh Howard
Utah Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor watched Josh Howard work out in North Carolina this week. It was enough to convince him the small forward could help in the condensed season.
Howard agreed to a deal with the Jazz on Thursday, pending a physical. O’Connor said he expects Howard to be in uniform Saturday night when the Jazz have an intrasquad scrimmage.
”The first thing he brings is an ability to play in the NBA,” O’Connor said Thursday night. ”He’s a guy that at the 3 spot has rebounded the ball exceptionally well. And he’s played on a winning team and in an NBA championship series.”
O’Connor said it will be ”all hands on deck” with a 66-game schedule that includes six games in eight days to start the season.
The Jazz made adding an athletic shooter their top priority in free agency after re-signing backup point guard Earl Watson last week.
”That was our first goal,” O’Connor said of bringing back fan-favorite Watson.
”The second was to improve the wing position. We did that in the draft with Alec (Burks) and with signing Josh. Now we’ll see how it goes.”
Agent Marc Fleisher, who represents free agent Andrei Kirilenko, said the Howard deal ”most likely” means the Jazz will not re-sign Kirilenko.
O’Connor declined comment Thursday night when asked about Kirilenko, who has been playing in Russia during the lockout, but is coming off an injury-plagued season.
O’Connor previously said there had been ongoing discussions with Kirilenko. But it was clear the 10-year veteran was going to have to take a major pay cut to return after making more than $17 million last season.
Howard was a key player for Dallas from 2003 to 2010 and helped the Mavs in their run to the NBA finals in 2006. He averaged a career-high 19.9 points in 2007-08 and has played in 453 games (381 starts).
He will be reunited with former Mavs teammate Devin Harris, now Utah’s starting point guard following the February trade of Deron Williams to New Jersey.
O’Connor said he relied on Harris’ input on Howard and said he came ”highly recommended.”
O’Connor also took a trip back to North Carolina on Wednesday to work out Howard and discuss his role with the Jazz.
”It went well enough to sign him,” O’Connor said.
He acknowledged Howard will have to shake off some rust after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee a month after he was traded to Washington in February 2010.
He developed tendinitis last season, and only appeared in 18 games for Washington in 2010-11, averaging 8.4 points.
Howard also was considering returning to the Wizards, or signing with San Antonio, Portland and New Jersey.
While visiting a local charter school in Washington last week, Howard told reporters he wanted to be on a good team, where the players were hungry.
The Jazz are coming off a 39-43 season, but have four players 21 or younger and several veterans looking to make amends for the disappointing finish.