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Utah Jazz add Francisco Elson to boost post depth

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 15 2010 4:27 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — It's still uncertain what the Utah Jazz's complete 2010-11 roster will look like, but one more piece of the puzzle has been added.

On Wednesday, the franchise signed journeyman center Francisco Elson to a contract, which will be finalized after the free agent undergoes a physical.

Terms and length of the deal were not made available, per team policy.

Elson, a tall but slight of frame 34-year-old, has played for five different NBA teams and was most recently with Milwaukee and Philadelphia last season. During his seven NBA seasons, the 240-pound, 7-footer has averaged 3.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 0.6 blocks.

"He's been through the wars a little bit," Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said of the team's new acquisition. "He gives us some defense and some rebounding ... (and) he's a competitor."

Elson, who was born in the Netherlands and played college ball at California, will contend for reserve playing time in the middle behind recently acquired Al Jefferson while center Mehmet Okur works his way back into the lineup after undergoing surgery on his ruptured Achilles tendon last spring.

Elson's reserve role might increase all the more depending on what ends up happening with Kyrylo Fesenko.

O'Connor said the Jazz "needed another big guy" regardless of Okur's health status.

"That's been important," O'Connor said. "We're comfortable and happy that (Elson) chose us."

O'Connor didn't have specific information to share on Okur's rehabilitation or Fesenko's contract situation.

Okur has been hopeful of being ready for the beginning of the season, but O'Connor said the big Turk's return timetable is unknown for now. His agent, Marc Fleisher, said Okur's "rehab is going well."

The Jazz will evaluate Okur, who's currently in Turkey after spending much of the summer in Utah, after he returns for training camp later this month.

Utah continues to wait on Fesenko's up-in-the-air status. According to his agent, Stu Lash, the Ukrainian center has received recent interest from a couple of other NBA teams but has not received a contract offer. The Houston Rockets are one of the teams that has been engaged in talks about Fesenko, according to the Houston Chronicle. The Rockets, however, reportedly offered free-agency newcomer Erick Dampier a two-year, $4 million deal on Wednesday.

Fesenko received a one-year qualifying offer for just over $1 million from the Jazz earlier this summer. His camp, though, is hoping the 7-foot-1 center will land a multiyear contract, preferably with Utah.

The Jazz have matching rights should Fesenko receive an offer sheet from another team. His current offer on the table from Utah expires on Oct. 1, and he must sign it to participate in training camp beginning on Sept. 28.

It remains possible that Fesenko could play professionally overseas; in which case, the Jazz would retain his NBA rights.

O'Connor said he has "no indication" whether or not Fesenko will sign with Utah.

"We're kind of in wait-and-see mode," Lash said.

Fesenko's agent said the 23-year-old "did well" during his time with the Ukrainian national team this summer. Lash also said the 300-pounder, who saw his role increase with the Jazz during the playoffs last spring, is "in really good shape" after participating in FIBA qualifying action with his country.

"It was good for him to continue to play and get team experience," Lash said. "... Any time a young player can get game experience in the offseason, it's positive."

Elson and his agent were unavailable for comment on Wednesday.

One half of the new partnership seems excited about the future, though.

The veteran only played in 12 games last season, averaging just 1 point and 1.2 rebounds, when his playing time was limited due to a hernia. But he's fully healed from that setback and surgery, and the Jazz expect him to contribute as an active big man.

Elson's best statistical season came with the Spurs in 2006-07, when he averaged 5 points and 4.8 points in 19.0 minutes per game. He started 41 games that season and chipped in just over three points and boards apiece in 11 playoff games during the Spurs' championship run.

The Dutch native, who's a 47.8 percent career shooter, played the first three years of his NBA career with Denver after a four-year European stint.

e-mail: jody@desnews.com

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