When the Jazz extended a lucrative, long-term contract proposal earlier this summer to guard Howard Eisley, it came with a deadline for acceptance.
That deadline passed on Monday, prompting the Jazz to pull their offer to Eisley off the table and turn instead to re-signing another of their reserve point guards, Jacque Vaughn.
Vaughn, the Jazz's No. 3 point man behind Eisley and starter John Stockton since being selected 27th overall in the first round of the 1997 NBA Draft, was expected to sign a two-year deal worth slightly more than $2 million, perhaps as soon as Tuesday afternoon.
"I don't think he comes back as a No. 3," Jazz basketball operations vice president Kevin O'Connor said of Vaughn, a University of Kansas product who has played sparingly with both Eisley and Stockton ahead of him.
"We just felt it was important," O'Connor added, "for us to have an experienced point guard who knows our system in tow. And Jacque wanted to come back. He knew we were still in negotiations with Howard, but he still wanted to come back."
Where that leaves Eisley, and whether the Jazz may trade him, remains to be seen.
The Jazz are believed to have offered Eisley a front-loaded, five-year deal guaranteed to be worth more than $20 million, plus a package of incentives — based on finishing among the top 15 or 20 point guards, statistically, in the league — potentially worth another $2.5-to-$6 million.
That offer, however, no longer exists, primarily because Eisley and his agent, Dan Fegan, would only shave about $500,000 from their demand for a six-year deal worth $30 million in guaranteed money.
"It doesn't mean we're through negotiating," O'Connor said. "It just means we're back to square one."
The one thing the Jazz do not want is for Eisley to sign elsewhere — and for them to get nothing in return.
They are mindful that Fegan is the same agent who last summer permitted swingman Shandon Anderson to sign with Houston instead of Utah. Anderson left about $18 million on the table in the process, and the Jazz got nothing for it.
"We're still making sure we're in negotiations, but we're still very far apart, and we're going to make sure we cover our bases," O'Connor said. "We're not going to be in the same situation we were in last year."
O'Connor said he has proposed working with Fegan to facilitate a sign-and-trade deal, one in which the Jazz would sign Eisley to the contract he wants — then immediately trade him to a team willing to compensate Utah with a player or package of players who will make a similar amount of money next season.
Yet the Jazz also have not ruled out re-signing Eisley. Even if they do, though, O'Connor said Vaughn is still very much a part of the picture.
"(Signing Vaughn) is independent of anything (Eisley) would do," O'Connor said. "We've had that discussion."
So while the Jazz may be sending a message, they say they are not merely using Vaughn as a pawn in the Eisley talks.
Still, don't expect a break in the stalemate anytime soon.
"Right now, everyone's taking a deep breath and saying, 'Let's sit back and see what's going on,'" said O'Connor, who is also waiting to hear from veteran forward Danny Manning regarding the Jazz's contract offer to him. "There are no plans to talk immediately. Not right now."