Utah Jazz believe reward worth risk of giving Josh Howard a second chance

Published: Friday, Dec. 16 2011 11:57 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 — By taking a risk on signing Josh Howard, the Utah Jazz showed they're willing to give people second chances.

But what about Howard's well-publicized negative incidents, you wonder?

The marijuana admission? Drag racing? Reported (and refuted) hangover-related game absence? National anthem disrespecting?

The dirty laundry's been aired out.

Skeletons are no longer in the closet.

Having done their homework on the 31-year-old, the Jazz are willing to get past his checkered past.

Howard's fresh start begins today.

He's scheduled to practice with the Jazz this morning and should dress, maybe even play a few minutes, in tonight's intrasquad scrimmage.

"It's an opportunity for him to continue playing basketball, and that's what we talked about," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "You've got to learn from your mistakes and move on. You may not get another chance after this one, and I think he understands the magnitude of that."

Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor admits he doesn't have an absolute assurance that Howard will be a model citizen in Utah. But the Jazz — players, coaches and management alike — are pretty confident he'll add instead of detract or distract.

"You try to do as much intelligence work as you can," O'Connor said. "What he's done since then is as important as what he's learned. Over the last couple of years, he's been terrific."

Except for his knee, that is.

Shortly after being traded from Dallas to Washington in 2010, Howard suffered a surgery-requiring ACL tear. Last season, he attempted to return too soon and was hampered by tendinitis.

Just another twist in a windy road.

In 2006, Howard helped the Mavericks earn a spot in the NBA Finals. In 2007, he was invited to the All-Star Game as a fill-in reserve. In 2008, he wandered onto a bizarre path of controversy in Dallas.

And since 2009, Howard has all but fallen off the NBA map. He's only played in 18 games since injuring his knee 21 months ago.

He's ready to turn the Jazz's risk into redemption.

"My expectations are very high," said Howard, who flew to Utah on Friday. "I know I have to earn my minutes first and foremost. ... But what you'll see is the same Josh you seen in Dallas."

Minus one accessory item.

Corbin smiled before practice while making it clear he's continuing Jerry Sloan's headband ban.

Other than that, Howard's new team is eager to welcome him to Utah.

O'Connor met with Howard in North Carolina earlier this week, and they had a frank discussion about what he learned from his past and what the organization would expect from him in the future.

Corbin also recently spoke with Howard, and came away feeling good about pursuing him.

A discussion with Devin Harris — Howard's teammate in Dallas from 2004-08 — factored into the Jazz front office being willing to make a one-year gamble on the former All-Star small forward as well.

O'Connor took Harris' high endorsement of Howard into consideration.

"We've been close friends for a while, since the Dallas days," the well-respected Harris said. "He's a guy who really can help this team, and I'm just excited to have one of my close friends back on the team."

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