Lots of questions for Kevin O'Connor, Utah Jazz as the end of lockout nears

Published: Saturday, Nov. 26 2011 10:00 p.m. MST

Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — While tweeting and sweating up a late-night storm after learning about the NBA's labor resolution, C.J. Miles reminded everybody of an important fact.

"No I am not a free agent," Miles wrote on Twitter. "I play for the UTAH JAZZ."

He will again soon, at least.

Nine guys who ended the 2010-11 season in April with the Jazz can also claim that — in uppercase letters if they so choose — because they remain under contract for the condensed campaign of 2011-12.

Coach Tyrone Corbin's incoming group includes point guard Devin Harris, shooting guard Raja Bell, swingmen Gordon Hayward and Miles, small forward Jeremy Evans, power forwards Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors, along with centers Al Jefferson and Mehmet Okur.

Throw in yet-to-be-signed draft lottery picks Enes Kanter and Alec Burks, and the Jazz already have 11 of 13 required roster spots filled up.

"I know that we'll be really talented," Bell said from his Miami home Saturday night.

"I know we'll be pretty young. I think Ty and his staff are probably champing at the bit to get us into training camp and kind of implement some of the things they want to put in and throw at us."

It's uncertain who the final two-to-four pieces of the Jazz puzzle will be, though.

When Dec. 9 rolls around and the free-agency period and mini-camp begin — assuming owners and players ratify the agreed-upon collective bargaining agreement — five players from last year's cursed squad won't be able to tweet what Miles did.

The free-agents-to-be include longtime Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, who's made a name for himself thanks to his outstanding play with Russian teams this offseason; veteran guards Ronnie Price and Earl Watson; and journeyman bigs Kyrylo Fesenko and Francisco Elson.

When the Jazz hired assistant Sidney Lowe in October, general manager Kevin O'Connor admitted preparation was critical considering this year's unusual scenario.

He usually has a couple of months to fill roster holes.

This time he'll only get a week or so.

"We know it's going to be a shortened cycle to get started," he said a month ago when he admitted the Jazz staff's "biological clock is starting to click."

So are the questions.

O'Connor couldn't comment on specifics, but he hinted that Corbin's team will have a similar feel to it as the traditionally hard-working, precise-executing Jerry Sloan squads from the past 23 seasons.

"We want to have the same DNA that we've always had," O'Connor said. "We're going to try and evaluate as we go forward with the players."

Last month, O'Connor said the Jazz were still trying to determine which guys they want to bring back and which free agents to consider bringing in.

Since taking on a "No surprises" motto when the lockout began on July 1, the Jazz front office has done anything and everything under its power to be ready to roll when it's OK to go.

O'Connor has talked to other general mangers "in generalizations." He described the scenario as "kind of running in place right now, but being prepared to move forward to get off the treadmill to go forward."

Because the Jazz only have one point guard on their youthful roster, it's almost a given Utah will look to a veteran playmaker like Watson and/or Price to fill the backup role(s) behind Harris.

Both players have expressed a desire to return to Utah.

Jazz management also need to determine if they should proceed with the abundance of big men they currently have.

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