NBA teams were allowed to start openly negotiating with free agents Monday but, perhaps surprisingly, Jazz vice president of basketball operations Kevin O'Connor called it "a slow day."
O'Connor said most agents are slow-playing their hand in this gigantic poker game as they search for the best deal and situation for their clients.
Players are not allowed to sign contracts until Friday, so the sense of urgency in negotiations won't begin to build for another 48 hours.
" ... We're still trying to chase down some of the guys we're interested in," said O'Connor, who downplayed the monumental task of getting the season off the ground, which starts by finding and signing the final two or three Jazz members of what will likely be a 13- or 14-man roster.
"It is what it is," he said. "If you look at the overview, it probably can be overwhelming. But if you take it piece by piece — get players signed and then move on to the next step — then it becomes a little less overwhelming."
A source told The Salt Lake Tribune on Monday the Jazz have held several discussions with a representative for unrestricted free agent Earl Watson about returning to Utah but " ... there is nothing new to report." The Jazz will likely sign two point guards to play behind starter Devin Harris, since Ronnie Price and Watson — who filled the role last season — are UFAs.
Without providing any additional information Monday, Hoopsworld reported the Jazz are shopping starting center Al Jefferson.
The Tribune has received no indication that is the case, and sources have long said dealing Jefferson is difficult, since he has two years and $29 million remaining on his contract and is not considered to be a premier player in the league.
Unless a trade netted the Jazz a proven power-type athlete with decent low-post scoring ability, Utah would be gambling that youngsters Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are ready for prime-time roles. While Favors' progression late last season was promising, it is highly unlikely the organization will put any additional pressure on Kanter, the No. 3 overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft. Furthermore, the Jazz are open to seeing how veteran center Mehmet Okur plays during camp before making a decision about his future.
Trading Jefferson would also put second-year coach Tyrone Corbin in the hole before a chaotic season has even begun, while taking away the consistency and common-sense approach valued by key Jazz personnel. All-Star point guard Deron Willliams was traded last season, soon after Corbin took over for Jerry Sloan.
Keith Kreiter, CEO of Edge Sports International, tweeted Monday rookie forward Paul Carter has accepted an invitation to the Jazz's training camp, which starts Friday.
Carter worked out July 21 for Utah, along with Jimmer Fredette and Kemba Walker, and the 6-foot-8, 203-pound free agent impressed the Jazz during the session. Carter played two years at Minnesota before transferring to Illinois-Chicago. He averaged 14.7 points and 8.0 rebounds last season.
Steve Luhm and Brian T. Smith
Twitter: @sluhm @tribjazz
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