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Losing it: Another reunion could give Jazz the right touch

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 1 2015 10:34 p.m. MDT

Raja Bell has said he doesn't want to stay in Utah, while unrestricted free agent Josh Howard would like to stay.     (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Raja Bell has said he doesn't want to stay in Utah, while unrestricted free agent Josh Howard would like to stay. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The NBA's annual free-agency frenzy officially began Saturday at 10:01 p.m.

If you or your agent didn't receive a phone call, well, don't quit the day job.

As for the Utah Jazz, Friday's pickup of Mo Williams could turn out to be the team's biggest offseason acquisition.

The point guard is a former All-Star who has a good outside shot and playmaking skills, knows what is expected in a Jazz system and made the choice to return to Utah by opting into the last year of his deal to finalize the four-team trade.

Williams even knows how to get on the good side of fans. Saturday on Twitter, Williams thanked Clippers' supporters for their support the past couple of years and then expressed his excitement about returning to the Beehive State.

Williams tweeted: "Homecoming for me #jazzfans. I'm very excited to finish where I started. #imready."

Bringing back an $8.5 million man who began his NBA career here in the 2003-04 season does limit the Jazz's free-agency options, which isn't necessarily a bad thing because of what he brings the squad.

The Jazz now have 14 players on their roster who could be under contract for the 2012-13 season should second-round draftee Kevin Murphy, the Tennessee Tech guard, make the squad.

At locker cleanout, veteran guard Raja Bell made his intentions clear that he no longer wishes to be part of the franchise, so it remains to be seen if the Jazz will trade him, use their amnesty on the 35-year-old or force him to honor the final year of his contract.

For the moment, the Jazz don't have much room on the roster, limiting their options to adding just one or two players. Traditionally, Utah likes to leave one open roster spot (of the 15 player maximum) for emergency purposes as it did when picking up point guard Blake Ahearn at the end of last season.

Almost as important, the Jazz find themselves north of the salary cap with a team payroll in the $62 million neighborhood. However, Utah still has a mid-level exception that it could use, giving the Jazz a bit of flexibility to bring in another player up to the $5 million limit.

By trading for Williams — helping rectify what general manager Kevin O'Connor refers to as his "biggest mistake" of letting him get away in 2004 — the Jazz seem to be out of the market for a point guard.

Unless they want five.

They now have four veteran playmakers on squad, including a pair of 2009 Eastern All-Stars (Williams and Devin Harris) along with seasoned backups Earl Watson (battling back from knee surgery) and Jamaal Tinsley. Tinsley's team option for the upcoming season was picked up by the Jazz on Friday.

That overloaded point guard pool most likely means the Jazz probably won't be targeting the likes of Steve Nash, Goran Dragic or, well, that other Williams who used to play point guard in Utah.

The Jazz also have an abundance of big men, with experienced posts Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap along with up-and-comers Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.

Utah's biggest need — as coach Tyrone Corbin brought up again to reporters on Draft Night — is shooting.

The lack of outside consistency last season allowed opponents to clog up the lane and throw pesky zone defenses at the Jazz, making life difficult on Utah's offense.

The Jazz selected Murphy with their often-successful second-round pick mostly because he can shoot and score off the dribble.

Williams also helps fill that shooting and scoring void with his 38.7 career 3-point percentage.

The Jazz are excited to see what the future holds for youngsters Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks on the wing, and they like what small forward DeMarre Carroll brought to the court last year, especially with his defensive intensity.

Utah tendered a qualifying offer to third-year forward Jeremy Evans, giving the Jazz a chance to match any other teams' potential offer to the seldom-used 2012 NBA dunk champion.

The Jazz could be short in wing experience if they lose Bell, considering the free-agency statuses of C.J. Miles and Josh Howard. Both Miles and Howard expressed interest in returning to Utah, but it's uncertain whether the Jazz will reciprocate the unrestricted free agents' wishes with contract offers. Late in the 2011-12 season, however, O'Connor made it clear they'd consider bringing Howard back because of the contributions and experience the revived NBA player provided Utah.

O'Connor was unable to be reached for comment on Saturday.

Without factoring in their interest in coming to Utah (or vice-versa), some possible mid-level-range shooters on the market include: Jason Terry (Dallas), Ray Allen (Boston), O.J. Mayo (Memphis), Nick Young (Washington), Danny Green (San Antonio) and Courtney Lee (Houston), among others.

Or, heck, after giving Howard and Tinsley chances to resurrect their careers last season, it's a big stretch but could the Jazz take a flyer on ex-Blazer Brandon Roy?

There's also a stellar European small forward free agent from Russia, who enjoyed his 10-year stay in Utah. It also seems to be a stretch, but could the Jazz and Andrei Kirilenko reunite?

Who knows for now.

Let the rumor season begin.

Email: jody@desnews.com Twitter: DJJazzyJody. Blog: Jazzland.blogs.deseretnews.com

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