Price happy to be back in Utah

Price happy to be back in Utah

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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By DOUG ALDEN AP Sports Writer

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Ronnie Price never expected his basketball career to go through Utah once, let alone twice.

Price was introduced as the newest member of the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, speaking to reporters about 40 miles north of where he was playing three years ago at Utah Valley State.

"I never thought my life would take me to Utah ever, honestly," Price said.

Price played three years at Utah Valley State, the former junior college just west of Provo. He transferred there after a coaching change at Nicholls State.

Price arrived just in time for Utah Valley State's transition to an NCAA Division I program, so his three seasons with the Wolverines went largely unnoticed.

Even in his senior year, when Price averaged 24.3 points, he garnered hardly any national attention while playing for a school that didn't have a conference and was not eligible for the postseason.

So it was little surprise when he went undrafted in 2005. The Sacramento Kings signed him as a free agent and Price made the team in training camp. He played sparingly in two seasons but well enough to revive Utah's interest.

Kevin O'Connor, Jazz vice president of basketball operations, said he made a call to Price's agent when free agency opened July 1.

Returning to Utah and joining a young team that had just reached the Western Conference finals sounded pretty good to Price, who was plenty familiar with the team after watching video while playing for Utah Valley coach Dick Hunsaker.

"He would sit down and show me the Jazz -- their offense, the way they did things, and just show me how hard the team played," Price said. "The Jazz are the hardest-working team in the NBA."

The addition of Price gives the Jazz a roster full of guards. O'Connor said Utah went after Price and free agent Jason Hart because they are versatile enough to play both guard spots and, more importantly, can improve Utah's shoddy perimeter defense.

"There's enough teams that play two smaller guards. We feel that combo guards can help us," O'Connor said. "We've gotten torched by a lot of guards this year."

The Jazz have added Price and Hart, a six-year veteran, this summer and lost Derek Fisher, who asked to be let out of his contract for family reasons and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers.

That still leaves Utah with a surplus of guards, including starter Deron Williams and restricted free agents Dee Brown and C.J. Miles. Brown was widely expected to be on the way out when the Jazz announced they were signing Price, but O'Connor said Utah still hasn't rescinded the qualifying offer made to either player.

The Jazz drafted a shooting guard, Morris Almond, in June and Ronnie Brewer, another shooting guard, a year ago. Veteran guard Gordan Giricek is also under contract. That adds up to eight guards with about two months before the Jazz have to finalize their roster.

O'Connor wouldn't speculate on possible trades. The Jazz have until Oct. 1 before making a final decision on Brown and Miles.

"We're still looking to massage our roster a little bit," O'Connor said.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-08-01-07 1837MDT

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