Josh Howard is coming to the Utah Jazz. The team has agreed in principle to a deal with the free agent on Thursday and, pending a physical, he is expected to be on hand for the team’s open scrimmage Saturday at EnergySolutions Arena.
The deal, reportedly, is for one year and $3 million.
Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal. The Jazz are in need of a small forward and Howard fits that need quite well. However, he also comes with some off-the-court personal baggage including admitted use of marijuana and a 2008 arrest for drag racing. Later that year he again raised eyebrows when a video surfaced of him disrespecting the national anthem at a charity football game.
In the video Howard can be heard saying, “The ‘Star Spangled Banner’ is going on right now. I don’t even celebrate that (expletive). I’m black.”
Howard later apologized for the statement.
Despite his past mistakes, the Jazz have said they are willing to give the 6-foot-7, 210-pound Wake Forest product a second chance.
“We’ve had an extensive conversation about it, he recognized the mistakes that he’s made,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “He talked about growing up and sometimes maybe speaking your mind is not the best thing to do.”
Corbin said the Jazz are comfortable with Howard’s personal growth since 2008.
“You’ve got to learn from your mistakes and move on,” Corbin said. “But you may not get another chance after this one. I think he understands the magnitude of that.”
Howard, 31, was a teammate of Jazz point guard Devin Harris on the Dallas Mavericks from 2004 through 2008.
Corbin and Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor spoke with Harris before signing Howard.
“Josh is a good dude, he’s very truthful,” Harris said. “He’s a guy that believes in speaking his mind and that obviously doesn’t always sit well with a lot of people. He’s a good teammate and he loves what he does.”
Harris and Howard were teammates on the 2005-06 Dallas team that went to the NBA finals.
“It’s exciting, we’ve been close friends for a while, since the Dallas days,” Harris said. “I think he’s a guy that can really help this team and I’m excited to have one of my close friends back on the team.”
A career 45 percent shooter, Howard has played in just 53 games over the past two seasons. In February of 2010 he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while playing for the Washington Wizards. Days earlier he had been part of a trade that sent Caron Butler and others to the Mavericks.
Howard battled knee tendinitis and played only 18 games last season.
O’Connor traveled to North Carolina earlier this week to watch Howard workout and determined he was healthy enough to sign.
“I watched him workout the knee and from all indications, from a layman’s point of view, his knee’s stable and strong,” O’Connor said.
Howard will undergo a physical before his deal with the Jazz is official.