But after extensive background checks, the Jazz came away feeling comfortable that Howard is heading in the right direction. He hasn't had newsworthy incidents in recent seasons and showed good character while with Washington.
And Howard has been informed the Jazz have "very little tolerance" for off-the-court issues.
"It's risky to bring anybody in," O'Connor said.
Most important, the Jazz GM believes, is seeing how guys react after making mistakes and moving on.
"I think our focus on him is as a basketball player more than what happened four or five years ago," O'Connor said.
The Jazz have taken a similar second-chance attitude in giving Jamaal Tinsley a shot at making the roster. The former Indiana point guard also had some bumps in his NBA road a few years back.
As for his future, Howard received no playing-time guarantees from the Jazz.
"That's up to him. It really is," O'Connor said. "He's obviously proven to be a very good NBA player."
The newest Jazz player liked the Utah situation for a variety of reasons, O'Connor said. For one, Howard will be reunited with an old teammate in Harris, whom he played with from 2004-08. He also likes that there will be playing chances with a young small forward crew.
"He wants to be prove himself and raise his marketability," O'Connor said, "and we're going to give him that opportunity."
Gordon Hayward and C.J. Miles have been battling for the small-forward starting job during camp. Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin has been positive about their play, even though he calls them "natural" shooting guards. Jeremy Evans is also hoping to see time in the 3 spot.
The Jazz are looking at Howard's signing as adding depth and improving their chances to succeed, not as a possible hindrance to the progression of Hayward and Miles.
"Those guys have got to compete," O'Connor said.
Howard, Hayward and Miles could also see playing time as shooting guards, competing with veteran Raja Bell and rookie Alec Burks for time there.
O'Connor believes Howard gives the Jazz more athleticism and firepower. Jazz ownership, specifically Gail Miller and Greg Miller, were on board with this move.
"We think he can help us and they said, 'Go ahead,'" O'Connor said. "They want us to remain as competitive as we possibly can."
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