The agent for Jazz guard Eric Johnson said Wednesday that the team activated and waived his client before he was healthy enough to play. But the Jazz say they may have even given the second-year pro more leeway than necessary.
Agent Mitchell Frankel said Johnson was shocked when he learned on Tuesday that he had been activated and immediately waived by the Jazz. Johnson had been on the injured list since Oct. 31 with a foot injury. Last week he was at practice with the team and wearing gym clothes, but didn't participate.NBA rules stipulate that a player cannot be kept on the injured list past when he is well enough to play. But Frankel says the Jazz acted too hastily.
"If the Jazz think he's not skilled enough, that's their prerogative, but right now he can't go anywhere else because he's not ready to play," said Frankel.
Frankel said Johnson doesn't necessarily need to play with the Jazz. He could catch on with another team or play in the CBA or in Europe. But, he said, the Jazz should work out an agreement with Johnson to pay him until he is well.
Johnson has 20 days to file a grievance against the Jazz, which Frankel said will likely happen if an agreement isn't worked out.
But Jazz General Manager Tim Howells said the matter boils down to whether the Jazz should take the word of the team doctors or Johnson and his agent.
"This is not a subjective opinion. It's a medical opinion. His (orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lyle Mason) letter was very absolute. It said that Eric is ready to play," said Howells.
Howells continued, "I didn't come in yesterday and say, Hey, let's activate Eric. It was a medical decision."
Howells said Johnson, who missed the rookie/free agent camp, summer league and veteran's camp with injuries, was given the benefit of the doubt, partly because of his good attitude and also because he had played a year with the team. Howells added that according to his information, the Jazz possibly could have had medical clearance for Johnson as far back as two weeks ago.
Howells said NBA teams received a letter last week stating that the league will look closely at all injured list situations. The league is apparently concerned that relatively healthy players could be put on the injured list to make room for others, or be kept on the list longer than necessary, to keep them from being picked up by another team.