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Utah Jazz sign Howard to one-year deal; A.K. era ends

Published: Thursday, Dec. 15 2011 8:01 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) 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 — The Utah Jazz made a move to get depth and firepower they believed they needed.

They're also getting one player who brings some baggage with him to the Beehive State and all but bidding farewell to another player who's been a Utah mainstay for the past decade.

Hello, Josh Howard.

Do svidaniya, Andrei Kirilenko.

Howard, a free-agent small forward with a history riddled with troubling incidents and a knee injury, agreed to a one-year deal Thursday with the Jazz.

In Howard, the Jazz get a veteran swingman who used to be a proven scorer and rebounder.

"I think we've added a good player," Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said. "We're excited to have him."

They've also added a player who has only played in 18 games since tearing his ACL almost two years ago.

Dallas Mavericks' Erick Dampier (25) and Josh Howard (5) reach for a rebound in front of Miami Heat's James Posey (42) in the second quarter in Game 2 of the NBA basketball finals in Dallas, Sunday, June 11, 2006. (AP Photo/Jeff Haynes, Pool) (JEFF HAYNES, AP) Dallas Mavericks' Erick Dampier (25) and Josh Howard (5) reach for a rebound in front of Miami Heat's James Posey (42) in the second quarter in Game 2 of the NBA basketball finals in Dallas, Sunday, June 11, 2006. (AP Photo/Jeff Haynes, Pool) (JEFF HAYNES, AP)

Howard's signing, pending a physical, "probably does" bring an end to the Kirilenko era in Utah, his agent Marc Fleisher admitted.

"Andrei will always treasure his time with the Jazz," Fleisher told the Deseret News.

The Russian forward, who's currently playing with CSKA Moscow, spent the past 10 seasons in the Beehive State. Though he's called Salt Lake City his second home, Kirilenko's asking price also put him out of Utah's price range.

The oft-injured-but-versatile Kirilenko, reportedly interested in Sacramento and New Jersey, is seeking about $9 million for three years, according to Sports Illustrated.

It has not been announced how much Howard will make this season as he tries to revive his once-promising career.

Andrei Kirilenko (Laura Seitz, Deseret News) Andrei Kirilenko (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

The 31-year-old Howard spent the first 6-1/2 NBA seasons with Dallas, where the Wake Forest product played with Jazz starting point guard Devin Harris. Howard was then traded to Washington in February 2010.

He tore an ACL a month later, and ended up playing only 18 games last year because of tendinitis.

"He tried to come back too soon, which is a nice thing to hear," O'Connor said.

Over his eight-year career, the 6-foot-7 Howard has averaged 15.1 points on 45.2 percent shooting (33.6 percent from 3-point range). He's also averaged 5.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists.

That proven playing track record makes him an enticing get for the Jazz, who were looking to bolster their wing depth.

Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko (47), of Russia, swings around Dallas Mavericks forward Josh Howard (5) as he heads to the basket during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007, in Salt Lake City. The Jazz beat the Mavericks 99-90. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac) (Douglas C. Pizac, AP) Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko (47), of Russia, swings around Dallas Mavericks forward Josh Howard (5) as he heads to the basket during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007, in Salt Lake City. The Jazz beat the Mavericks 99-90. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac) (Douglas C. Pizac, AP)

But controversy accompanies Howard's athleticism and scoring prowess.

In 2008, a year after earning an All-Star reserve spot, Howard was cast in a negative light multiple times.

Howard, then with Dallas, first admitted in an interview that he smoked marijuana in the offseason. He later apologized after telling ESPN, "I don't think that's stopping me from doing my job." He also reportedly passed out fliers to his birthday party in the locker room after a loss.

Later that year, Howard was arrested for drag racing (94 MPH in a Lexus) and brought controversial attention upon himself for disrespecting the national anthem on video at an Allen Iverson charity football event.

In 2010, Howard refuted an ESPN report that he missed a game in Dallas because of a hangover.

Josh Howard (Associated Press) Josh Howard (Associated Press)

The Jazz are well aware of the mishaps and past problems.

General manager Kevin O'Connor knows the signing is a gamble for both parties involved.

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.

Josh Howard (Associated Press) Josh Howard (Associated Press)

"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."

Dallas Mavericks forward Josh Howard (5) attempts a shot over Sacramento Kings guard Mike Bibby (10) in the first half of a basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2007. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) (Tony Gutierrez, AP) Dallas Mavericks forward Josh Howard (5) attempts a shot over Sacramento Kings guard Mike Bibby (10) in the first half of a basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2007. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) (Tony Gutierrez, AP)

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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