Team appears content with sticking by its current roster - the league's third-youngest
By Ross Siler
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 02/21/2008 01:33:44 AM MST
Taking into consideration the recent NBA trades that brought Aaron McKie and Keith Van Horn out of retirement (at least for salary-cap purposes), Deron Williams has the perfect surprise the Jazz could pull at today's trade deadline.
"I told Jeff [Hornacek] he needs to come back and play,'' Williams said of the retired 44-year-old Jazz great, now working as a part-time assistant coach. His sales pitch to Hornacek? "Spot up. That's all you've got to do is spot up. I'll get it to you."
The likelihood of the Jazz making any move - Hornacek or otherwise - by today's 1 p.m. MDT deadline is small. But it would not represent inaction as much as a vote of confidence in the continued growth of what is the NBA's third-youngest team.
The only teams younger than the Jazz (average age 25.6) are Portland and Atlanta, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The NBA's three oldest teams, by contrast, happen to be three of the Jazz's primary rivals in the Western Conference: Dallas, Phoenix and San Antonio.
While Dallas acquired soon-to-be 35-year-old Jason Kidd and Phoenix traded for soon-to-be 36-year-old Shaquille O'Neal, the Jazz continue to have just one player older than 30 on their roster in Matt Harpring.
"What I feel is that certain teams get a year older next season and certain teams get a year better,'' said an NBA general manager, who sees a player like Steve Nash's numbers declining next season while a player like Williams' should increase.
That thinking is why the Jazz are not expected to make a move at today's deadline. A league source said Wednesday the Jazz several days ago ruled out pushing for a deal on their end, although they would continue to field calls from teams.
Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor was tightlipped on the subject of the trade deadline. "We're evaluating everything,'' he said. "That's about where it's at."
It's hard to argue with the Jazz's present trajectory. They advanced to the Western Conference finals and have won 19 of 22 games since Kyle Korver's arrival in a December trade.
"We've got young guys and that's a whole thing,'' Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "They learn how to play together. They learn how to help each other. They hopefully like each other. That makes it a little bit easier - it's not mandatory - but you hope they succeed together out on the floor."
Sloan described that growth as sometimes being a "slow process" filled with highs and lows. He also can see it as a route that teams over the years have taken in reaching the NBA Finals.
"A lot of teams,'' Sloan said, "have gotten better and gotten better and gotten better, have gotten knocked down a few times, and had to fight back. You learn a lot from those things."
At the same time, Sloan noted that the Jazz have had little adversity to overcome the last two years. He also regularly mentions the team's lack of experience, especially after replacing veteran Derek Fisher with second-year guard Ronnie Brewer in the starting five.
"I think we're going to be a good team,'' Williams said. "I think we are a good team right now and can get better as we just learn to play with each other, grow with each other."
Harpring, meanwhile, looked at Korver riding the stationary bike next to him and joked: "I guess we did our Shaq trade. There he is." He also had one request if he's going to be branded the old man of the team at 31.
"The elder statesman,'' Harpring said. "That's what I like to be referred to as."