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Utah Jazz working on filling at least two roster spots

Published: Monday, Dec. 5 2011 11:36 p.m. MST

From left, Al Jefferson, Andre Kirilenko, Gordon Hayward and Earl Watson as the Jazz host the Atlanta Hawks at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah on  Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011.  Mike Terry, Deseret News (Mike Terry, Deseret News) From left, Al Jefferson, Andre Kirilenko, Gordon Hayward and Earl Watson as the Jazz host the Atlanta Hawks at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011. Mike Terry, Deseret News (Mike Terry, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz need to add at least two players before the upcoming season begins.

It remains possible two familiar faces will fill those empty roster spots.

The Jazz are engaged in ongoing discussions with the camps of small forward Andrei Kirilenko and point guard Earl Watson, their agents told the Deseret News on Monday.

General manager Kevin O'Connor confirmed that he reached out to the former Jazz players on the team-owned radio station, 1320 KFAN.

O'Connor, who didn't immediately return calls from the Deseret News, first contacted Utah's current players when allowed Monday morning, he told play-by-play announcer David Locke. The Jazz G.M. then phoned former players who are free agents.

Earl Watson (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Earl Watson (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

Monday marked the first day NBA front-office personnel were allowed to speak with players and free agents.

Kirilenko played for the Jazz the past 10 seasons, but he's currently under contract with CSKA Moscow in his native Russia. Though nursing a broken nose and recovering from a bruised shoulder, Kirilenko is expected to play again this weekend with his Russian team while NBA negotiations continue, according to his representative.

"He's still weighing his interest in different teams," agent Marc Fleisher said.

As for Watson, the veteran playmaker has maintained a hope to return to Utah since last spring. The 10-year pro felt more comfortable running the team's offense as his first season with Utah progressed, and he liked his reserve situation behind Deron Williams and Devin Harris.

Andrei  Kirilenko (Provided by Utah Jazz, All) Andrei Kirilenko (Provided by Utah Jazz, All)

"The organization knows how I feel," Watson enthusiastically told the Deseret News on Monday.

Watson also took the time to thank Jazz fans who participated in a "BringBackEarl" campaign on Twitter with this message: "Thank you to all of jazz nation! Great fans!"

Friday is the first day players can officially come to an agreement with teams or trades can be made, pending the ratification of the new collective bargaining agreement.

That's also when camps can begin.

The Jazz received good news on that front. Center Mehmet Okur will be here in time to participate from the get-go of the training sessions.

Okur was granted a release from his Turkish basketball team, allowing him to leave early despite a stipulation in the contract that he had to stay until a new NBA labor deal was officially in place.

Okur flew from Turkey to the United States on Monday. He's returning, by the way, in much-improved health, his agent said, as the center's surgically repaired left Achilles tendon and back have made significant progress from last season when he played in only 13 games for the Jazz.

In other news, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Jazz will visit the Lakers on Dec. 27. The game will be L.A.'s third in three days, and could be Utah's season-opener. The Jazz won't play on Dec. 25 when 10 teams tip off the NBA season, and it's possible they could also start on Dec. 26.

The NBA schedule will officially be announced today at 5 p.m. on NBA-TV.

Also, Illinois-Chicago small forward Paul Carter has accepted a camp invitation from the Jazz, according to his agency. Edge Sports International president Keith Kreiter tweeted Monday that the 6-foot-8 Carter, who had two pre-draft workouts with Utah this summer, "has a real chance to earn a spot."

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