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Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Jazz re-sign Harpring, complete trade for Fisher

Associated Press

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 back."

Shortly after Harpring was finished talking about his new deal, the Jazz announced they had picked up Fisher in a deal with Golden State.

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."