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Luhm: Tinsley, Howard made most of their second chance with Utah Jazz

Published May 12, 2012 1:09 pm

The Jazz's gamble on two players with baggage paid off.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Raise your hand if you thought the Jazz would win 36 games during the lockout-shortened season.

Congratulate yourself if you predicted Utah would win as many games as reigning NBA champion Dallas or the New York Knicks.

Beyond the lopsided sweep in the first round of the playoffs against San Antonio, the Jazz's season was a success.

The most significant happening? Probably the emergence of Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors as potential franchise cornerstones.

Another story of note, however, didn't involve wins or losses and might not have anything to do with Utah's future.

It was a story of redemption — getting a second chance and taking advantage of the opportunity.

When Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor signed veteran free agents Jamaal Tinsley and Josh Howard in December, my mind flashed back to 1995.

During training camp almost 17 years ago, I got a call from a reporter and friend in New Jersey.

Roughly, I can still recall the conversation.

Him: "Have you heard anything about the Jazz signing Chris Morris?"

Me: "Are you kidding me? No way the Jazz sign Chris Morris."

Less than 24 hours later, the Jazz signed Morris.

In their search for an athletic wing player who could take some pressure off Jeff Hornacek, the Jazz turned to one with more baggage than Samsonite.

Morris' most infamous incident in New Jersey: He wrote the word "trade" on the back of one sneaker and "me" on the back of the other.

I just didn't think the Jazz would gamble on a player with Morris' past, but they did — as they did with Tinsley and Howard this year.

Tinsley, especially, put together the kind of season that every team seeks from its No. 3 point guard.

He stayed ready, produced when called upon, and was a model of professionalism off the court and dealing with the media.

Indiana fans might not believe it.

After a quick start to his career with the Pacers, Tinsley fell out of favor with his coaches and was plagued by injuries.

He was considered such a disruptive force that GM Larry Bird told him to stay away in 2008-09 while the team tried to trade him.

Tinsley did not play in the NBA for two seasons. He started this year in the D-League, before O'Connor signed him.

Did the gamble pay dividends?

Said O'Connor: "What I would say, both Jamaal and Josh were not only model citizens but good examples of somebody who got a second chance and performed pretty well."

Tinsley and Howard might even be back next season.

"You never commit to anything because you're always trying to improve your team," O'Connor said. "But they didn't do anything to prevent them from coming back, let's put it that way."

luhm@sltrib.com