Signing 1987 first-round draft choice Jose Ortiz took 14 months, a trip to Spain, two trips to Puerto Rico and hours of trans-atlantic telephone calls, often via an interpreter.

Just another routine transaction for David Checketts, the Jazz's president and general manager.Signing Ortiz and 1988 first-rounder Eric Leckner as early as they did took away plenty of uncertainty as the Jazz opened training camp this weekend.

Negotiating player contracts is only one of many responsibilities for Checketts, 32, who recently observed his five-year anniversary with the Jazz - five very productive years, on an off the court. No doubt, the Jazz are fortunate to have kept Checketts this long.

Consider that he was merely taking a leave of absence from his position with a prestigious Boston consulting firm when former Jazz owner Sam Battistone asked him to become the team's executive vice-president in September 1983.

And just look at what's happened to the Jazz during the Checketts administration. When he arrived, the franchise was in debt and in trouble. Season-ticket sales were below 5,000, the team was trying to make more money by playing about one-fourth of its home games in Las Vegas and Battistone had little choice but to listen to out-of-town offers to sell the team. Suddenly, the Jazz are not only profitable but are considered one of the model business operations in the NBA.