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Utah Jazz: Matt Harpring likes offseason Al Jefferson, Raja Bell additions

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 3 2010 10:50 p.m. MDT

MURRAY — Like many observers, Matt Harpring was a bit worried about the Utah Jazz's future after the team lost Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Wesley Matthews this offseason.

"At first, everyone was kind of looking at it like, 'Uh, oh. What are the Jazz doing?' " the former NBA player said, "because they got rid of Boozer, Korver, things were just deleting themselves."

It didn't take long for that oh-no attitude Harpring shared with so many other Utah fans to vanish with an almost magical move by Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor and the front office.

"Kevin pulled a rabbit out of his hat with Al Jefferson," Harpring said, referring to the Jazz's trade for the talented big man who was traded to Utah from Minnesota for two first-round picks and Kosta Koufos.

"What a move that's going to be, because I think he's a really good player in this league," Harpring continued. "He's been on a bad team, so ... they haven't had much notoriety there, so a lot of people don't really know who he is. But now that he's going to be on a good team, he's going to get his notoriety."

The pressure will be on Jefferson, Harpring added, but the 6-foot-10 center should benefit from Utah's team play.

"For the first time in his career, he's going to be able to trust his teammates," said Harpring, who's in town to conduct his ninth-annual basketball camp in Murray. "If he passes the ball out of the post, he can trust that someone's going to pass it back to him if he's open or they'll make the right play."

Harpring also likes the pick up of shooting guard Raja Bell, which he called "a good veteran move." The two were teammates in Utah from 2003-05.

Harpring believes the no-nonsense Bell will give the Jazz a stable, tough presence.

"You need a guy in the locker room to maintain balance," Harpring said. "Jerry has seen it all, been through it all, and as a coach obviously he kind of stays straight and narrow, doesn't get too high, too low. You need a guy like that in the locker room, too."

Harpring predicts Bell will make certain "everyone doesn't think the world's going to end tomorrow" while on a five-game losing streak. Likewise, Bell should help keep expectations from being raised so "you don't think you're going to be champions, either" on a five-game winning streak.

Added Harpring: "That's where Raja is really going to help out, is the toughness he's going to bring and also the leadership he brings."

e-mail: jody@desnews.com

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