Brian Nicholson, Deseret Morning News
Jazz rookie Andre Owens (30) can breathe easier now. His contract \— and that of Robert Whaley \— is now guaranteed for the rest of the year.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Jazz flew to Memphis on Thursday for a four-game trip that opens tonight against the Grizzlies.

For a couple of rookies, it was a particularly momentous flight.

The Jazz decided Thursday to stick with both big man Robert Whaley and shooting guard Andre Owens, meaning each's $399,000 contract becomes fully guaranteed for the remainder of the season.

"We're trying to build a team, and I think we've been happy with them," Jazz basketball operations senior vice president Kevin O'Connor said of the two. "Robert (Whaley) has contributed in a few games, and Andre (Owens) was a pretty big part in helping us win a couple."

Owens was undrafted this past summer out of the University of Houston, and his contract for the season previously was non-guaranteed.

Whaley was a late second-round pick, and his deal was only partially guaranteed.

All NBA contracts for players still on a roster as of next Tuesday, and because of procedural concerns — 48 business-day hours must pass before clearing waivers — the actual deadline for releasing players without having to pay them for the rest of the same came early Thursday night.

For Whaley, whose place with the team has been particularly uncertain throughout the season, the decision should offer quite a bit of comfort.

"It's been on my mind," he said Thursday. "But I try not to think about it as much so I can stay focused on what I'm trying to do out there on the court."

The reserve center from tiny Walsh (Ohio) University also sees the Jazz's call as a wise one: "I think that I help out," Whaley said. "I think I'm getting a lot better. I've learned a lot, and hopefully they see it."

Because they evidently do, Whaley now can focus on priorities broader in scope than ensuring his rookie contract will be paid in full.

"My little goal was to make it to each (partial guarantee) date, but my ultimate goal is to play in the NBA and stay in the NBA — not just be an average player (for) three years or four years," he said. "I'm going to do whatever it takes to make this what I do forever."

SLOAN ON MILES: The Jazz's other second-round pick, shooting guard C.J. Miles, was assigned Wednesday to Albuquerque of the NBA Development League.

On Thursday, coach Jerry Sloan revealed what he said before the 18-year-old began to pack his bags.

"Go down there and try to make the best of it," Sloan said he told Miles. "See where you are with your game. See what you have to work on."

Sloan suggested the move was made purely to aid the development of Miles, who is expected to rejoin the Jazz later this month after playing in five games or so for Albuquerque.

"I think it will be good for him," Sloan said of Miles, who has been inactive for the Jazz's last seven games and has not played in 22 of 32 games this season. "We didn't do it as punishment. . . . We're trying to give a guy a chance to become a better basketball player."

NO BOOZER: Forward Carlos Boozer, out all season with a strained hamstring, did not accompany the Jazz to Memphis.

He probably will not be with the team again until after the Jazz return from Philadelphia next Wednesday but may be able to play before the end of the month.

Meanwhile, center Greg Ostertag returned to practice Thursday morning after sitting out Wednesday due to a head cold.