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STEVE LUHM: Amaechi one of worst Jazz players ever
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Let's be clear about one thing.

This isn't about John Amaechi's sexual orientation or his decision to write about being a gay man in the NBA in a soon-to-be-released book.

This is about John Amaechi, basketball player with the Utah Jazz from 2001-03.

Because it is, there's little to tell.

That's because John Amaechi remains one of the worst players in franchise history.

I'm not Amaechi-bashing here.

I'm just stating a fact.

After the 2000-01 season, the Jazz were desperately looking for help at center and power forward.

Aging free agent Danny Manning was about to sign with Dallas and Utah had finally given up on baggage-toting Olden Polynice, whose contract expired.

So on July 19, 2001, the Jazz signed Amaechi to a four-year, $12 million contract.

Over the next two seasons - before being traded - the young Brit

redefined the cliche, "Take the money and run."

Amaechi took about $6 million of Larry Miller's money and didn't run . . . didn't shoot . . . didn't rebound.

Looking back, the price tag for his astonishingly unproductive layover in Utah is mind-boggling.

Amaechi ended up being paid $5,660 for every minute played, $21,879 for every point scored and $32,258 for every rebound he ever grabbed for the Jazz.

In 104 regular-season games, Amaechi averaged 2.6 points, 1.8 rebounds and shot 32 percent from the field.

Among Jazz players who have participated in at least 100 games, the only ones who come close to those unhappy numbers are John Duren, Kris Humphries and Quincy Lewis.

Duren averaged 2.9 points, 1 rebound and shot 41.7 percent.

Humphries averaged 3.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and shot 39.4 percent.

Lewis averaged 3.8 points, 1.4 rebounds and shot 39.9 percent.

So you judge.

Is it harsh to suggest Amaechi is one of the worst players in Jazz history?

I don't think so.

To make matters worse, Amaechi's running feud with coach Jerry Sloan made weekly headlines, it seemed.

During his second season, Amaechi became a member of rebellious clique that also included Mark Jackson and DeShawn Stevenson.

They all were unhappy with the roles, and their discontent fractured a locker room that John Stockton and Karl Malone had run relatively smoothly for 15 years.

Although Stockton never said anything to me, others insist that the off-the-court turmoil contributed to his decision to retire after the Jazz were eliminated from the 2003 playoffs.

In his book, Amaechi blames Sloan's demand for focus and effort for their troubled relationship.

"I respect the game of pro basketball," he wrote. "I just don't think it's all that important. I wasn't going to be embarrassed by Jerry Sloan because basketball had a proper role in my balanced life and I didn't blindly worship a game he made pretty much the entirety of his existence."

Oddly, Amaechi suggests the Jazz should have known his level of play might drop after he secured his first big-money million-dollar contract.

"Why does the performance of so many players decline after they sign multiyear guaranteed deals?" he wrote. "It's a little thing called human nature. Plenty of guys - Karl Malone and John Stockton are the obvious examples - play hard no matter how much they make. Other guys lack the discipline. Predicting which player falls into which category is the key to scouting."

A few paragraphs later, Amaechi explained: "The problem was not my commitment to the game. I was working as hard, with what I had, as anyone on the team. The truth is Sloan and Jazz management hadn't done their research - otherwise known as scouting. They could tell you all my court tendencies, how I played the game and why I should fit into the system. But they knew nothing of my character."

luhm@sltrib.com

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