SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Jazz continued to stockpile for the future Thursday and got what they hope will be some immediate help.
The Jazz exchanged shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson for Orlando's Gordan Giricek in one trade and picked up veteran Tom Gugliotta and two first-round draft picks from Phoenix for two players who have spent most of the season on the injured list.
The Giricek deal was the bigger of the two for the Jazz
immediately. Stevenson is having the best season of his career, but
has never quite lived up to the potential the Jazz saw when they
drafted him out of high school in the first round four years ago.
"I think the maturation process was a little bit longer than we would have liked. This year I think he improved a great deal and I think he's proven that he can play in the NBA," said Kevin
O'Connor, Jazz vice president of basketball operations. "We gave
up somebody that we thought was getting better, but we also got
somebody we thought would fit into our system pretty darned well."
Utah gave up Stevenson and a conditional second-round draft pick in exchange for Giricek, who at 26 is four years older than Stevenson but is playing in just his second NBA season.
The Jazz like Giricek's outside shooting, an area Stevenson has improved on, and hope his experience playing in Europe helps lift the young team out of its recent slump.
"I'm happy to play for Utah because I know a lot of the guys there," Giricek said. "I think I'll be more involved in the
offense there, for sure. The way they play fits me better."
The Phoenix deal is more about the future. The Jazz took
advantage of their space under the salary cap and took Gugliotta,
who is earning $11.6 million in the final year of his contract.
Utah also gets two conditional first-round picks, a 2005
second-round pick and an undisclosed amount of cash in the deal.
In return the Jazz give up forward/center Keon Clark, who was the team's biggest acquisition last summer but has played in just two games this season and is still recovering from ankle surgery. Phoenix also gets center Ben Handlogten, who is out for the rest of the season with a torn ligament in his left knee.
Clark, who the Jazz hoped would emerge as a starter after losing Karl Malone to free agency, will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
"We really would have liked to have had Keon play this year because I think he really would have helped us. We're struggling to score and struggling defensively inside a little bit," O'Connor said. "He's a free agent at the end of the year. We knew that. And we've put ourselves in a situation where we got three draft picks for two players that were hurt."
As part of the trade, Phoenix will give up the least-favorable of its two first-round picks in the 2004 draft: either its own or the selection it got from New York in a previous trade. The second conditional first-round pick also came from New York and is protected through 2010.
Utah could have three picks in the opening round. The Jazz also have a conditional first-round
pick coming from Houston for a trade last summer in the upcoming draft. The second first-round pick in Thursday's deal is protected until 2010.
The Jazz could use some help now. Utah has lost three straight and seven of its last 10. If nothing else, Gugliotta, 34, will
bring the Jazz experience as they try make a late run for the
The one-time All-Star has never been the same since blowing out his left knee in 2000. He played in just 30 games for the Suns and none recently.
"We're going to give Tom an opportunity to come in and see how he does. We've always liked him as a player," O'Connor said. "My impression is that he really would like to continue to play and we're going to try to give him a platform to do that."
Once Gugliotta's contract is up, the Jazz will have a huge chunk of the salary cap free this summer as they try the free-agent
market again. Last year Utah was unsuccessful in pursuing
restricted free agents including Corey Maggette and Jason Terry.
Giricek gives the Jazz four European players and two from U.S. territories. The Jazz's "international" roster is Giricek
(Croatia), Carlos Arroyo (Puerto Rico) and Raul Lopez (Spain),
All-Star forward Andrei Kirilenko (Russia), rookie Sasha Pavlovic
(Serbia-Montenegro) and guard Raja Bell (U.S. Virgin Islands).
Both players are reserves who had seen decreasing playing time as the season wore on.
Williams has played in 37 games this season, averaging 4.9
points and two assists per game.
"Shammond gives our team another quality shooter as we head down the stretch," Hornets general manager Bob Bass said. "He has the ability to play both the point guard and (shooting) guard positions."
New Orleans may be able to use Williams right away because of the absence of starting shooting guard David Wesley, who is not expected to return from a sprained left big toe until next week at the earliest.
Rooks, on the injured list since Feb. 10 with a sprained right ankle, has averaged 2.3 points a game in 35 appearances this
season. Acquired as a free agent before the season, Rooks can score from outside more than a typical center.