Jazz: Giricek not leaving - yet

Published August 17, 2007 3:04 am

Jazz dispel report claiming shooting guard was on his way to play for team in Spain
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Thanks to a phone call from Croatian countryman Zoran Planinic, a story in the El Correo newspaper and the reach of the Internet, Jazz guard Gordan Giricek spent part of Thursday on his way to play for Tau Ceramica in Spain this season.

Not about to happen, according to Kevin O'Connor, the Jazz's senior vice president of basketball operations, as well as Marc Fleisher, Giricek's agent. Not with Giricek under contract to the Jazz for one more season at $4 million.

But the story did make for interesting reading, in addition to interesting discussion about Giricek's future in Utah. His relationship with Jerry Sloan has been strained, his expiring contract has trade value and both sides are said to be open to a deal.

At the same time, Giricek is the most experienced shooting guard left on the Jazz's roster after Derek Fisher's departure. Yet Giricek apparently has fallen out of favor and his role this season with the Jazz is uncertain.

Asked if he was confident Giricek would start the season with the team, O'Connor answered, "Never confident of anything . . . Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar got traded, so can anybody get traded? Yeah."

From eight time zones and 5,000 miles away, the Spanish newspaper weighed in on Giricek's unsettled situation in Salt Lake City.

"The Mormon franchise has left the player's status a little up in the air for someone who has been useful during the past four seasons, but the team has considered letting him go,'' the paper wrote, according to a translation made for the Tribune.

"With this possibility, the Jazz have two possible paths. A trade with another team to strengthen its diminished interior play or to allow a recision [of the contract]. This possibility is what most interests [Tau] and the player's representatives."

The paper wrote that the club is hoping the Jazz will buy out Giricek's contract, similar to what happened last summer with Planinic and the New Jersey Nets. Tau Ceramica is one of the top teams the Euroleague, home to Luis Scola and Tiago Splitter last season.

"For now, Giricek himself is waiting to see but privately acknowledges that [Tau] would be an ideal destination for a European return,'' according to the El Correo report, which was the lead headline on the widely read HoopsHype.com blog.

Giricek has Croatian connections to Tau through Planinic, who played three seasons with the Nets, and coach Neven Spahija.

For now, the closest Giricek will get to Spain is a paella dinner. The NBA and FIBA have a agreement to honor each other's contracts, and Giricek still has a season left on the four-year, $16 million deal he signed in July 2004.

Giricek told Planinic that he would consider Tau if he ever wanted to return to Europe. That isn't a consideration now, Fleisher said.

Giricek averaged a career-low 7.8 points off the bench last season, watching as C.J. Miles opened the season as the starting shooting guard and Fisher finished the season in that role.

He voiced concern about being branded a halfhearted defender and worker. In recent weeks, Giricek was described as having an "uneasy relationship" with Sloan.

Giricek sat out nine games with bruised ribs - Jazz owner Larry Miller questioned in a June radio interview whether Giricek "milked" the injury - but has played five NBA seasons and is more experienced than the Jazz's other shooting guard candidates combined.

The Jazz have Giricek, Ronnie Brewer and Morris Almond under contract, with a qualifying offer still out to Miles. Brewer and Miles have little by way of NBA resumes and Almond is a late first-round pick heading into his rookie season.

O'Connor said not to discount the possibility of the Jazz finishing games this season with forwards Andrei Kirilenko and Matt Harpring on the floor together and without a true shooting guard in the lineup.


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