A few strokes past midnight last Friday, Jazz basketball operations vice president Kevin O'Connor wired a telegram.
Its intended recipient: Jazz guard Howard Eisley, who as of that very moment was a free agent — at liberty, without bounds, to talk with any team in the NBA.
The message in that dispatch, Jazz owner Larry H. Miller said Monday, was short and to the point: "All it said was, 'Howard, We Want You.' "
The Jazz make it abundantly clear: They would dearly love to re-sign Eisley, their overwhelming No. 1 choice as heir to the starting point-guard post currently held by NBA all-time assists leader John Stockton.
Jacque Vaughn is but an afterthought.
If Eisley opts to sign elsewhere, the Jazz may turn back to Vaughn, their third point guard since being selected from the University of Kansas in the first round (27th overall) of the 1997 NBA draft. But if Eisley returns for a sixth season in Utah, Vaughn is expendable.
"I don't know if we can use Jacque under the circumstances," Miller said. "He's a good kid. He's a hard worker. But I don't know if he can ever come to play under the discipline of a Jerry Sloan team."
Vaughn plays at times like a water bug with batteries, a style franchise officials have apparently decided is too contrary to the discipline and systematic patience employed by Jazz coach Sloan.
While they doggedly negotiate to re-sign Eisley, whose steady if unimaginative game is better-suited to the principles taught by Sloan, the Jazz are prepared to see Vaughn lured elsewhere.
"If there are (offers to Vaughn from other teams)," Miller said, "more power to him. We're not losing sleep over it."
Miller's position seems grounded more in reality than in a negotiating stance. There are only so many game minutes behind Stockton, who will be back for one more season (and maybe more, according to Miller). Vaughn apparently wants more playing time than he had last season, but the Jazz evidently are prepared to offer as many minutes as possible to Eisley.
Both Jazz free-agent guards could draw interest from elsewhere, with Phoenix, Toronto, and, the latest, New Jersey, among the teams reportedly considering pursuing Eisley. If Eisley does not return to Utah, and/or if Vaughn does leave, the Jazz have identified a possible replacement: Los Angeles Clippers guard Troy Hudson, who played eight games for the Jazz in 1997-98.
"We like Troy a lot," Miller said. "He is definitely one we've talked about."
Beyond the Jazz's point guard situation, Miller addressed numerous topics Monday — everything from interest in Orlando Magic free-agent big man John Amaechi to a planned Fourth of July pow-wow with star Karl Malone.