Hugh Carey, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Everyone talks about the future of the Utah Jazz with their five lottery picks, all under the age of 24, four of whom are 22 or younger.
But what about Utah’s four older veterans, none of whom has a guaranteed contract with the Jazz next year? What is the future of Richard Jefferson, Marvin Williams, Brandon Rush and John Lucas?
Three of them, Jefferson, Williams and Rush, are unrestricted free agents who can sign with any other NBA team after July 1, while Lucas has a contract with the Jazz that is non-guaranteed for 2014-15.
Of the four, Williams seems the most likely to be back with the Jazz next year. Williams, who started 50 of 66 games and averaged 9.1 points and 3.8 rebounds, said he loves playing in Utah and hopes to be here next year.
“I’ve said all year long, the way the Jazz organization has treated me, the way the community has treated me, I can’t imagine being anywhere else,’’ Williams said. “Obviously I understand in professional sports things happen, but I’ve made it very clear I would like to return here if possible.’’
The other three veterans are unsure about returning, although each was quite positive about his experience in Utah.
“I don’t know what the future holds,’’ said Jefferson, who started 78 games and averaged 10.1 ppg. “I really enjoyed my time here — the fans here have been amazing. Obviously if I was going to continue in a rebuilding process, this would probably be my No. 1 choice.''
But Jefferson, a 13-year veteran in the NBA, admitted he would like to play for a playoffs-bound team, considering he may not have a lot of years left to play in the league.
“When you get to be almost 34 years old, you do want to play in the playoffs,'' he said. "If that opportunity doesn’t present itself, then being here in Utah with a great group of guys and a quality coaching staff and the amazing fans that would be something that would be high on my list.’’
Rush, who came over in the trade from Golden State with Jefferson last year, was coming off ACL knee surgery after playing just two games the previous year with the Warriors. Before going to Golden State, Rush had played three years for Indiana where he started more than 100 games in three seasons.
“It was an up and down year,’’ Rush said of his time in Utah. “I improved and came back from a knee injury and wanted to show people I could play a little bit.’’
However Rush, who only played in 38 games and averaged 2.0 points in 11 minutes per game, acknowledged being a bit frustrated about his lack of playing time.
“I didn’t feel I got enough chances,’’ he said. “But RJ and Gordon and Alec were playing well the whole season, so I can see why (coach Corbin) didn’t want to break the rotation and why I couldn’t break into the rotation.’’
When asked about whether or not he’d be back in Utah, Rush said, “I’m not going to go there — you don’t know what happens in this league.’’
But he hinted about not returning, saying, “Free agent season starts July 1, and I have to wait on the call.’’
The 31-year-old Lucas feels he still has a place in the NBA, but he talked more about his upcoming marriage this summer, saying, “I’m looking forward to this next chapter in my life. I’m excited and ready for it.’’ He will be married on Aug. 2 in Jamaica.
As for his first season in Utah, Lucas said, “I didn’t shoot the ball as well as I always have (32.6 percent). I was learning a different offense, a style than I’m used to playing and I had to adjust to that.’’
Lucas, who started six games early in the season while Trey Burke was injured, was known as a team player who always encouraged his teammates during games and was a mentor to the younger point guards, Burke and Diante Garrett.
“We went young this year and my whole thing was to keep those guys focused and make sure they didn’t drift off,’’ Lucas said. “This was new to me. I enjoyed it. I got frustrated at times because I wanted to be out there and wanted to play. I sat down with coach Ty and we had a man-to-man talk and I look at it more like, it was my time to help others.’’
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsay praised the veteran players, particularly for their leadership.
“Greg and Gail and Steve (Miller) said some words to the team after our last home game and some of the thank-yous were most appropriately directed towards Richard and Marvin,’’ Lindsay said. “We were challenged from a win-loss standpoint, but the group stayed together and worked hard all year long. They followed Ty’s leadership, and Marvin and Richard in particular get that credit.’’
And what about next year?
“We really appreciate both and under the right circumstances we can see one or both of them coming back,’’ he said.
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