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NBA: Josh Howard’s awakening arrives at perfect time for Utah Jazz

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Even Howard’s faith has turned inward. He has an aunt who’s a preacher in Shreveport, La.; she has a husband who’s adamant Howard has a natural-born calling to spread the gospel; and scriptures are regularly mailed his way. Another life, Howard says and smiles. His young son might pick up God’s work. But right now, Howard has a job to do.

"My preaching is just being out here, leading by example, carrying myself the right way," Howard said.

At a glance

Jazz at Cavaliers

At Quicken Loans Arena

Tipoff » 5 p.m., Monday

TV » ROOT Sports

Radio » 1320 AM, 1600 AM, 98.7 FM

Records » Jazz 17-19, Cavaliers 13-22

Last meeting » Jazz, 113-105 (Jan. 10)

About the Jazz » Coach Tyrone Corbin said Saturday that guard Raja Bell (strained left adductor) could return against the Cavaliers. Bell said he will try to, but he planned to test his injury Sunday before making a decision. … Utah entered Sunday in fifth and last place in the Northwest Division and 11th in the Western Conference.

About the Cavs » Cleveland has lost five consecutive games. … Rookie point guard Kyrie Irving leads the team in average points (18.5). He’s shooting 48.1 percent from the field and 43.2 percent behind the 3-point line. … Cleveland ranks 22nd out of 30 teams in average scoring (93.7) and 24th in points allowed (98.2).

Josh Howard

Position » Forward

Year » Nine

Age » 31

Vitals » 6-foot-7, 210 pounds

Stats » 8.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists

Career » 14.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists

Draft » No. 29 overall by Dallas in 2003

College » Wake Forest

Born » Winston-Salem, N.C.

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New man

Earl Watson stands by Howard. Same for C.J. Miles, Devin Harris, Jamaal Tinsley and coach Tyrone Corbin, among others. They’ve spent 36 games with the player Dallas gave up on. They’ll proudly spend at least 30 more.

Reinvention, renewal, resurgence — those words came up when Utah discussed Howard. And an even more important one: leadership.

"I don’t think it’s fair to judge young people ... when they come into this league," Watson said. "[It’s] not even the money. Just transitioning from a young adult to a man. Transition’s tough. We all can’t be judged for the times when we was in our early 20s — that can’t define us forever."

Howard continues to make amends. Being a father has changed him, as did his underwhelming run in Washington. It was two long seasons and just 22 games filled with injuries and on-the-court frustration. But during a time when Howard could’ve unceremoniously ended his once-promising career, he quietly started writing his next chapter.

"He just took me under his wings and he still talk to me from day-to-day and give me advice throughout the whole year," Wizards guard John Wall said. "He’s very mature. He’s a professional. He knows when to do the right things and when not to."

Lately, the right thing has been making it work in SLC. Not only has the experiment been a success, but Corbin’s also debating whether to make Howard a permanent starter once guard Raja Bell returns from injury. Utah’s coach loves what Howard brings on and off the court. Dallas couldn’t be farther in the rearview.

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"A lot of folk, they just ... hear a couple things about him in the media or just through some stories about a guy," Corbin said. "But he’s an intelligent player that understands where he is in his career and what it’s going to take for him to continue to play in this league. And he’s preparing himself for when he get out of the league, and he’s very smart in that way."

The man who almost gave it all away now has a new home. It could be temporary. It could be the start of something that lasts — Howard will give Utah full consideration once free agency begins. Either way, his first 36 games in a Jazz uniform have initially proved general manager Kevin O’Connor’s gamble was dead on: Howard’s been little risk, high reward.

"I’ve started to show people what I can do and what I used to be able to do," Howard said. "It’s just a matter of time and prayer."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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