SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Jazz on Wednesday re-signed
forward Matt Harpring and completed a trade for veteran guard Derek Fisher, hoping the added leadership can get the team back to the
playoffs for the first time since 2003.
Harpring was an unrestricted free agent until signing the
four-year, $25 million deal he agreed to last week. He spent the
last four seasons in Utah, where he signed as a free agent who had
played for three different teams in his first four seasons.
"I wouldn't have signed back if I didn't think we had a chance
to win here and that's the biggest thing," Harpring said during a
news conference. "I really feel like we have a good thing going
here. It's about winning now and that's why I wanted to come
Shortly after Harpring was finished talking about his new deal,
the Jazz announced they had picked up Fisher in a deal with Golden
Utah sent guards Devin Brown, Keith McLeod and Andre Owens to
Golden State for Fisher, who played eight seasons with the Lakers
and the last two years with the Warriors. The Jazz first needed to
sign Owens, a restricted free agent who played 23 games after
making the team as an undrafted rookie last summer, on Wednesday
before trading him to complete the deal.
Fisher has played 10 seasons in the NBA, the first eight with
the Los Angeles Lakers and won three NBA titles there from
2000-2002. He spent the last two seasons in Golden State and
although he wasn't looking to be traded, he was happy he was going
to a team that has been improving, agent Mark Bartelstein said.
The Jazz closed the season by winning six of eight, wrapping it
up with a 105-102 win over Fisher and the Warriors that got Utah
back to .500 at 41-41.
"They're a really good, young team," Bartelstein said.
The Jazz gave Fisher, whose wife just had twins, some extra time
to report for a physical. They expected him within the next 10
days, but weren't worried about the physical or what they were
getting in Fisher.
"He gets great reviews everywhere he's been," said Kevin
O'Connor, vice president for basketball operations.
Harpring, 30, and Fisher, 31, are now the only 30-somethings on
the Jazz, who are stocked with inexperienced players in their early
to mid-20s -- especially at guard. Point guard Deron Williams and
shooting guard C.J. Miles were rookies last season and the Jazz
added another all-purpose guard by drafting Ronnie Brewer in the
first round last month.
"We felt like we really needed to add a veteran to the team. He
had a career year last year," O'Connor said. "We think his
leadership and his playing ability is going to help us, especially
in close games."
Fisher averaged 13.3 points and 4.3 assists for the Warriors
last season and the Jazz hope he can mentor the young backcourt.
"You bring a guy like that into a locker room setting, it's
only going to help your team," Harpring said.
Brown played just one season with the Jazz after signing a free
agent deal last summer. He averaged 7.5 in 81 games in Utah. Owens
played in 23 games and missed the last 36 with a stress fracture.
Utah exercised its option on McLeod, who played the last two
seasons in Utah, on June 30.
The Jazz haven't been to the playoffs since Harpring's first
season, which was also the last for icons Karl Malone and John
Stockton. He and forward Andrei Kirilenko are the only players from
that season still under contract with the Jazz, who are still
trying to re-sign free agent center Jarron Collins.
"To me, I think we are a playoff team. I wouldn't have gone to
a team that wasn't in the playoff hunt or I didn't think was going
to make the playoffs," Harpring said. "We have some pieces here
that we can be really good."