Utah Jazz sign Howard to one-year deal; A.K. era ends

Published: Thursday, Dec. 15 2011 5:00 p.m. MST

Dallas Mavericks forward Josh Howard (5) shoots over San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) during the second quarter of their NBA basketball game in San Antonio, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2008.

Eric Gay, AP

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz made a move to get depth and firepower they believed they needed.

They're also getting one player who brings some baggage with him to the Beehive State and all but bidding farewell to another player who's been a Utah mainstay for the past decade.

Hello, Josh Howard.

Do svidaniya, Andrei Kirilenko.

Howard, a free-agent small forward with a history riddled with troubling incidents and a knee injury, agreed to a one-year deal Thursday with the Jazz.

In Howard, the Jazz get a veteran swingman who used to be a proven scorer and rebounder.

"I think we've added a good player," Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said. "We're excited to have him."

They've also added a player who has only played in 18 games since tearing his ACL almost two years ago.

Howard's signing, pending a physical, "probably does" bring an end to the Kirilenko era in Utah, his agent Marc Fleisher admitted.

"Andrei will always treasure his time with the Jazz," Fleisher told the Deseret News.

The Russian forward, who's currently playing with CSKA Moscow, spent the past 10 seasons in the Beehive State. Though he's called Salt Lake City his second home, Kirilenko's asking price also put him out of Utah's price range.

The oft-injured-but-versatile Kirilenko, reportedly interested in Sacramento and New Jersey, is seeking about $9 million for three years, according to Sports Illustrated.

It has not been announced how much Howard will make this season as he tries to revive his once-promising career.

The 31-year-old Howard spent the first 6-1/2 NBA seasons with Dallas, where the Wake Forest product played with Jazz starting point guard Devin Harris. Howard was then traded to Washington in February 2010.

He tore an ACL a month later, and ended up playing only 18 games last year because of tendinitis.

"He tried to come back too soon, which is a nice thing to hear," O'Connor said.

Over his eight-year career, the 6-foot-7 Howard has averaged 15.1 points on 45.2 percent shooting (33.6 percent from 3-point range). He's also averaged 5.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists.

That proven playing track record makes him an enticing get for the Jazz, who were looking to bolster their wing depth.

But controversy accompanies Howard's athleticism and scoring prowess.

In 2008, a year after earning an All-Star reserve spot, Howard was cast in a negative light multiple times.

Howard, then with Dallas, first admitted in an interview that he smoked marijuana in the offseason. He later apologized after telling ESPN, "I don't think that's stopping me from doing my job." He also reportedly passed out fliers to his birthday party in the locker room after a loss.

Later that year, Howard was arrested for drag racing (94 MPH in a Lexus) and brought controversial attention upon himself for disrespecting the national anthem on video at an Allen Iverson charity football event.

In 2010, Howard refuted an ESPN report that he missed a game in Dallas because of a hangover.

The Jazz are well aware of the mishaps and past problems.

General manager Kevin O'Connor knows the signing is a gamble for both parties involved.

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