Dozens of enthusiastic Utah Jazz fans welcomed Greg Foster and Chris Morris back to Utah Thursday.
And though both players responded to the warm airport reception with a smile, they differ when it comes to returning to the team that dealt them away Monday in a failed bid for Orlando center Rony Seikaly.Their return capped an unproductive NBA trade deadline day for the defending Western Conference champions.
"It was very busy," basketball operations chief Scott Layden said. "We were on the phone quite a bit, but like sometimes happens things don't work out."
ESPN reported that the Jazz talked with Orlando about Seikaly and the Los Angeles Clippers concerning newly acquired Isaac Austin right up until the final minute, though Layden declined to confirm or deny the reports.
Foster and Morris, meanwhile, caught a flight back to Utah shortly after the league deadline passed. The players passed physicals and worked out with Orlando Wednesday but spent most of their time in Florida cooped up in a hotel waiting for Seikaly to report to Utah.
It never happened.
"We get down there and we're ready to play. Then, all of a sudden we get a phone call saying there's a possibility of us not playing," said Morris, who will likely return to the end of Utah's bench after possibly starting for the Magic. "It kind of took the air out of us."
The on-again, off-again deal has Morris upset.
"I'm angry. I'm angry that I'm back. I was looking forward to going out there and playing," he said. "It's just an unfortunate thing I have to be back here. I don't know what to think about the future."
Though frustrated about the circumstances, Foster doesn't share Morris' outlook.
"It hasn't been fun, I'll tell you that much, but like I said earlier I'm glad to be home," Foster said. "There's no other place I'd rather be than right here in Salt Lake City."
The players were met at the airport by their wives and children, as well as several well-wishers and the media. Both appeared weary as they worked their way past the crowd and through the terminal. Neither knew that Seikaly wound up being dealt to New Jersey.
"I hadn't heard any thing. We've been flying. We've done an awful lot of flying and haven't slept a lot. I just want to go home and go to bed," Foster said. ". . . I'm glad to be home, definitely glad to be home."
Foster and Morris missed the past two Jazz games while waiting the outcome of the trade. Morris, who had hoped to reunite with former Nets coach Chuck Daly, said the three days in Orlando were a complete waste of time. Foster, however, thinks the impact will be minimal. Both players were expected to practice with the Jazz Friday at Westminster College in preparation for Saturday's Midwest Division showdown at San Antonio.
"I don't think we're going to miss a beat. Hopefully we won't," Foster said. "I don't have a (problem) with anybody. I'm going to come and play hard. If anyone else has a problem with me, they shouldn't, because I'm not going to be a hard case about it."
The same cannot be said of Morris, who becomes a free agent at season's end. He told reporters he wasn't sure he could contribute much to the Jazz unless he saw 20 minutes or more of playing time. Such a scenario is unlikely and Morris knows it. He said the worst part of returning to the Jazz is sitting the bench and watching the other guys play.
"(In Orlando) it was nice to see a coach who knows our ability and was willing to take that risk," Morris said. "I was looking forward to playing the game of basketball, but now we've got to turn that around and come back here.
"People always say it's a business - you get sent off and now you've got to come back," Morris said while referring to the whole situation as a joke.
"Well, that's the way it is. If you don't have a winning hand you tend to get screwed. So basically, that's what happened to me and Greg."
Foster chose to distance himself from any "puppets on a string" or "poker chip" analogies. The well-traveled veteran is taking an optimistic approach toward his team-mates, even those who may have endorsed the Seikaly deal.
"I'm sure we'll all kiss and make up," Foster said. "Everything will be great."