By coincidence, I was in the lobby of the Utah Valley University athletic offices Friday when the news crawled across the television screen that Portland acquired point guard Eric Maynor from Oklahoma City.
Naturally, I wondered how that move would affect Ronnie Price, the former UVU star. The answer came later, and in more abrupt fashion that I was imagining. The Trail Blazers waived Price, at least temporarily ending his eight-year NBA career — including four seasons with the Jazz.
Not a lot of trades were made before Thursday’s deadline, but there was one too many for the sake of Price. Maynor, himself a former Jazz point guard, is being viewed as an upgrade in backing up ex-Weber State star Damian Lillard in Portland, making Price expendable.
That’s unfortunate. If this is the end for Price in the NBA — and I doubt that’s the case — he’s pieced together a nice career in Sacramento, Utah, Phoenix and Portland. He’s appeared in nearly 400 NBA games as an undrafted player from a school that was just phasing into four-year competition when Price came to Orem.
UVU coach Dick Hunsaker labels Price the "poster" of his program, and that’s true on and off the court. He never quite established as the Jazz’s No. 2 point guard, but he provided some nice moments. My favorite memory of Price with the Jazz came in Game 4 of a 2008 second-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers. Price needed four stitches above his eye after being hammered by Ronny Turiaf (who would be suspended for a game), but he returned to the court and drove for a three-point play and later hustled back to block Luke Walton’s breakaway layup in the Jazz’s eventual overtime victory. That kind of toughness and hustle made him an endearing player.
The Jazz are well staffed at point guard, even with Mo Williams still recovering from a thumb injury. They’ve managed to stay afloat with contributions from Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson and Alec Burks. But who knows? Maybe in the Jazz’s massive restructuring next summer, they will have a need for a solid, team-first guy like Ronnie Price.
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