SALT LAKE CITY — By taking a risk on signing Josh Howard, the Utah Jazz showed they're willing to give people second chances.
But what about Howard's well-publicized negative incidents, you wonder?
The marijuana admission? Drag racing? Reported (and refuted) hangover-related game absence? National anthem disrespecting?
The dirty laundry's been aired out.
Skeletons are no longer in the closet.
Having done their homework on the 31-year-old, the Jazz are willing to get past his checkered past.
Howard's fresh start begins today.
He's scheduled to practice with the Jazz this morning and should dress, maybe even play a few minutes, in tonight's intrasquad scrimmage.
"It's an opportunity for him to continue playing basketball, and that's what we talked about," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "You've got to learn from your mistakes and move on. You may not get another chance after this one, and I think he understands the magnitude of that."
Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor admits he doesn't have an absolute assurance that Howard will be a model citizen in Utah. But the Jazz — players, coaches and management alike — are pretty confident he'll add instead of detract or distract.
"You try to do as much intelligence work as you can," O'Connor said. "What he's done since then is as important as what he's learned. Over the last couple of years, he's been terrific."
Except for his knee, that is.
Shortly after being traded from Dallas to Washington in 2010, Howard suffered a surgery-requiring ACL tear. Last season, he attempted to return too soon and was hampered by tendinitis.
Just another twist in a windy road.
In 2006, Howard helped the Mavericks earn a spot in the NBA Finals. In 2007, he was invited to the All-Star Game as a fill-in reserve. In 2008, he wandered onto a bizarre path of controversy in Dallas.
And since 2009, Howard has all but fallen off the NBA map. He's only played in 18 games since injuring his knee 21 months ago.
He's ready to turn the Jazz's risk into redemption.
"My expectations are very high," said Howard, who flew to Utah on Friday. "I know I have to earn my minutes first and foremost. ... But what you'll see is the same Josh you seen in Dallas."
Minus one accessory item.
Corbin smiled before practice while making it clear he's continuing Jerry Sloan's headband ban.
Other than that, Howard's new team is eager to welcome him to Utah.
O'Connor met with Howard in North Carolina earlier this week, and they had a frank discussion about what he learned from his past and what the organization would expect from him in the future.
Corbin also recently spoke with Howard, and came away feeling good about pursuing him.
A discussion with Devin Harris — Howard's teammate in Dallas from 2004-08 — factored into the Jazz front office being willing to make a one-year gamble on the former All-Star small forward as well.
O'Connor took Harris' high endorsement of Howard into consideration.
"We've been close friends for a while, since the Dallas days," the well-respected Harris said. "He's a guy who really can help this team, and I'm just excited to have one of my close friends back on the team."
Harris credited Howard for maturing since his troubled times. Having a trusted friend in the locker room, someone who's a good influence, could prove valuable to Howard's career revival.
"Josh is a good dude," Harris said. "He's very truthful. He's a guy who believes in speaking his mind. Obviously, it doesn't always sit well with a lot of people. (But) he's a good teammate. He comes and works hard. I love what he does."
Harris even put a bug in Howard's ear this summer when they worked out together about coming to Utah.
Playing with Howard, who simultaneously entered the league eight years ago, convinced Harris that the athletic scorer is "fully back" from knee issues.
The Jazz believe that's the case, too. O'Connor was convinced Howard's knee is "stable and strong" after watching the Wake Forest product work out and go through physical therapy exercises during his visit to Raleigh-Durham.
Now the Jazz just need to help Howard get ready to play and immersed into a system that he's familiar with from an opponent's perspective.
It might take a while before he's challenging Gordon Hayward and C.J. Miles, the Jazz's two main small forward options, for playing time.
"He's going to have to earn minutes on the floor like everybody else," Corbin said. "He's missed camp, so he's going to have to catch up. From what I understand, he's not in great NBA shape just yet, and he understands he has work to do there. It's going to be a process for him."
Hayward and Miles said they welcome the addition of Howard, who is known for being a prolific scorer (once scored 47 against the Jazz) and a good rebounder. It's possible Howard will be a bust, that he's past his prime and his knee won't respond. Then again, he could also add needed firepower and more athleticism.
"Any time you can compete for spots like that and compete for minutes, it just increases your depth and makes you get better as a team overall," second-year swingman Hayward said. "I don't think I'm worried. ... I can (only) control how I play and how I do, and just let it fall from there."
Miles said the Jazz are getting a versatile former All-Star who makes it tough for opponents to guard because of his mid-range game, his posting and facing-up inside skills, his passing and rebounding.
"He can do a little bit of everything," Miles said.
Include win and help the wings improve.
"He only makes us better as a team to add somebody like him," Miles said. "He pushes the rest of us guys in that position at the two and three. That's what it's all about, us coming in here and competing."
O'Connor said it was imperative that the Jazz get another wing — along with Hayward, Miles, Raja Bell and Alec Burks — because of the extra grind and increased injury possibility from the condensed 66-game schedule.
"It's a risk-reward for both of us," O'Connor added. "He wants to prove himself and we're giving him that platform."
They've given a similar chance to former Indiana guard Jamaal Tinsely, who also had a bumpy road in the past. Unlike Howard, Tinsely does not have a guaranteed contract.
"When you're young you learn from your mistakes. As you get older, you just move along," Tinsley said. "Things you used to do when you was younger, you don't do no more. It's always good to get a second chance, and I'm glad the Jazz gave me an opportunity."
O'Connor lauded both players for learning from their mistakes. He pointed out that the Jazz are more willing to give these guys a shot at reviving their careers because they haven't been involved in incidents for a couple of years or more.
And O'Connor encourages onlookers to "judge them how they act here."
Bad behavior, he said, will be dealt with "swiftly and quickly" in Utah.
"They've done what they've done. They've paid the price from a public forum," O'Connor said. "If you look at the last 2-3 years, you've got to say, 'Hey, not a peep.' That's the evaluation that we had as much as anything."
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