SALT LAKE CITY — While Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are the most prominent free agents-to-be on the Jazz's roster, Utah has another half-dozen free agent players who may or may not be back in 2013-14.
Starting guards Mo Williams and Randy Foye, backup point guards Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson, spark plug forward Demarre Carroll and little-seen guard Jerel McNeal are the other Jazz free agents-to-be who can look elsewhere for better deals this summer.
Then there’s Marvin Williams, who is a free agent with a player option to return to the Jazz, which most folks believe he will take.
For coach Tyrone Corbin, it’s been a challenge trying to manage a roster with two-thirds of the players being free agents.
“This was different. I played 16 years and I’ve tried to think back on any team where I’ve had eight or nine free agents on a team and key guys all at the same time,’’ he said. “As a coach I haven’t had that until this year. It’s a different management, different set of elements you have to deal with on a nightly basis.’’
When asked if he got advice from anyone about the unusual situation, he laughed and said, “Most guys I talk to just felt for me. It’s a difficult position to be in.’’
Corbin said while it was challenging coaching so many free agents, he believes they handled it well.
“They all seem to have enjoyed themselves here and they like being with each other and it’s a good group to work with,’’ he said. “I can’t say enough about them.’’
It’s unknown which of the free agents will return to the Jazz next year. Utah general manager Dennis Lindsey wouldn't tip his hand when asked about it Thursday. It will depend on other offers by NBA teams and how much money the Jazz will be willing to fork out for each player. But nearly to a man, the Jazz free agents say they would love to return to play for Utah next year.
“Absolutely,’’ said Mo Williams when asked if he’d like to return next year. “The ball is in their court and it’s more on what direction they want to go. They know how I feel and I know how they feel, so we’ll see what happens.’’
Foye, Carroll and Marvin Williams each expressed a desire to return to the Jazz, as did Tinsley and Watson, although they both seem to know the chances aren’t great, at ages 35 and 33, respectively.
“That ain’t up to me,’’ said Tinsley. “I would love to come back here but I don’t control that.’’
“I don’t know — it’s a long way from now,’’ said Watson. “The first thing is to get healthy. If I can’t contribute 100 percent healthy, I’d rather contribute doing something else.’’
McNeal, of course, would jump at the chance to play for the Jazz after being with the team over the last month, but never getting in a game. With four free agent guards perhaps leaving, he might have a chance of making the team for a minimum salary.