The Jazz lost Shandon Anderson to Houston early in the week, but at least two top players still want to call Utah home: Jeff Hornacek and John Stockton.
The team held a 1 p.m. press conference Thursday to announce the signings of Hornacek and Stockton to contracts. Though the team doesn't announce figures, the Deseret News has learned Hornacek's contract is for one year and will pay him slightly more than $5 million. Stockton signed a 2-year deal worth about $22 million."Some guys want to be paid and then play," said Jazz owner Larry H. Miller. "But the special ones play and then get paid."
Added Miller, "We've used the word 'fair' when referring to Jeff and John for a long time. We just felt like this was the sort of situation where when it's all over they can look at things and say they were treated fairly."
Miller said both guards expressed optimism about the coming season and were refreshed after having a long summer with their families. Stockton will be at his customary spot as the starting point guard. Hornacek will start at 2-guard, as he has for the past five seasons. Though he was planning on coming off the bench this year, Anderson's defection left the team with just one proven 2-guard. Hornacek believes recent knee surgery should solve some of the problems he had last season.
During last year's playoffs, he was bothered by aching knees and shot a below-par .416 from the field.
"I think I'm ready (for more minutes)," said Hornacek on Wednesday. "Every guy just wants to play more minutes. Does Shandon leave a hole? The way I look at it, if we didn't have any other guys, there would be a hole. But the year before last, Adam (Keefe) played a lot at the 3 spot, and we won 62 games. Bryon (Russell) might be used some at the 2 spot. It's not that
big a deal on our team, because the 2 and 3 spots are basically the same, just on opposite sides of the court. It's not a huge hole that we can't solve."
Hornacek added, "If I play a few more minutes this year, that's not that big a deal. It's not like I'm playing four games in five nights, 40 minutes a night."
Hornacek said rookie Quincy Lewis could be used regularly, pointing out that Anderson averaged 16.4 minutes per game as a rookie. Miller said the Jazz are also considering using point guard Howard Eisley as a 2-guard.
There is an outside possibility this won't be Hornacek's final year. He told Miller he didn't want to sign a multiyear contract if he wasn't going to be playing. However, Miller said if the Jazz win a championship and Hornacek stays healthy, Hornacek might reconsider his plans for retirement.
Said Hornacek, "I would still have to say the odds are against me playing again (after this season)."
As for Anderson's departure, Miller said, "I wish him well. I hope he's right, but it could be another David Benoit revisited." Benoit took less money than the Jazz were offering to become a free agent after the 1995-96 season. But an injury forestalled his debut in New Jersey, and his career has languished.
Though Miller said in August that he would never do a sign-and-trade deal with Anderson, he softened on that stance late last week. "We explored it," said Miller. "It was clear we couldn't work a deal on a two-team basis. We explored some three-team deals, as well. We just didn't find anything that was workable. We wanted to get something, but there just wasn't something out there."
The Jazz originally offered a four-year, $15 million contract to Anderson, but he and his agent refused. Anderson was seeking $7 million to $9 million per season. The Jazz are believed to have eventually upped the offer to more than $22 million over five years, but Anderson left, citing "lifestyle" as the key factor.
That leaves the Jazz with 11 players under contract -- Stockton, Hornacek, Eisley, Keefe, Lewis, Russell, Karl Malone, Greg Ostertag, Olden Polynice, Scott Padgett and Jacque Vaughn.
Training camp begins Oct. 5 in Boise.