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Is B-Russ on the block?

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DALLAS — With a month and a couple days to go before the NBA's Feb. 21 trade deadline and the Jazz fluttering just barely above .500, some might argue the time to make a move is fast-approaching.

Whether Utah will do just that, however, remains to be seen.

The 21-18 Jazz do have needs, and one in particular tops Kevin O'Connor's list.

"I still think we can get a shooter," said O'Connor, the Jazz's vice president of basketball operations. "I mean, that's the thing that we've talked about — you know, somebody who could help us spread the floor a little bit."

What it will take to get one, whether the Jazz are willing to give it up, and whether or not someone like soon-to-be free agent Bryon Russell will be part of the package are all questions to be answered before the deadline passes.

"I'm not saying we have to make a trade," O'Connor said, "or we're gonna make a trade."

But, he added, "We would look to improve our basketball team — and however we can do that. . . . It's not something (where) we're disappointed and discouraged. It's just if we can get better, we will. Or we'll try to."

Russell's tenuous position adds intrigue to potential deadline-day scenarios: The veteran swingman who has played all nine of his NBA seasons with the Jazz becomes a free agent after this season.

Ideally, Utah would like to wait until the offseason to decide if it wants to re-sign him and to determine if Russell is willing to accept whatever they might offer.

But many tempting trade proposals may be made, or sweetened, before then.

Russell, who knows interested suitors already have approached the Jazz regarding his potential availability, seems prepared for whatever might occur.

"It doesn't matter to me. I mean, if something happens, something happens," he said Friday, just before the Jazz practiced for their game tonight against Dallas. "So, I mean, I won't be mad. I will think 'it's a business; it's a business deal.'

"I'm just happy to say I'm glad that I'm a person that teams want. I'll let it go from there. Because it ain't like I'm gonna be a third person in the deal. . . . I mean, my name will probably be up at the top — so I'm just glad to be wanted by teams. It gives me options."

Besides, as he sees it, the Jazz hold the real option on whether he will be in Utah for a 10th season and beyond.

"I don't know," Russell said when asked if re-signing with the Jazz is a personal priority. "I mean, it's whatever direction they want to go in. I'm happy. But if they decide to go in a new direction, and I'm not part of that direction, I won't be upset. I mean, it's a business."

Late next week, Russell's agent, Dwight Manley, will meet with O'Connor to talk about Russell's situation, plus that of another Jazz client who becomes a free agent after the season ends, starting small forward Donyell Marshall.

Russell, for his part, is leaving his future largely in Manley's hands.

"I ain't getting involved with it," he said. "Dwight is my man. I hired him to go to work for me."

O'Connor would not divulge what specific trade offers for Russell might be on the table. And he went out of his way to say the Jazz are not initiating any deals to ship him away. But that does not mean Utah will not listen, as is the case for most of the rest of its players, too.

"Bryon's earned the right to certainly know what we're thinking a little bit — and we want Bryon back," O'Connor said. "I mean, all of a sudden after eight years it's not like, 'Hey, I don't want Bryon Russell.' . . . We certainly want Bryon back. We certainly want Donyell (Marshall) back. But there's a lot of liquidity that goes on.

"I will say this: There's always interest in good players, and Bryon's a good player. But, you know, we're not looking to trade Bryon. I mean, it's not like we're out there trying to make a trade," he added. "And we're not trying to trade a Donyell, or we're not trying to trade (an Andrei) Kirilenko. We're not trying to do that. We're trying to improve our team — and whatever form that comes in, then we would look at it."

In the meantime, Russell looks to rebound from a pelvic avulsion fracture that had him on the injured list from Nov. 17 through Dec. 21.

He has played regularly off the bench since returning but has struggled to find any sort of consistency with his shooting — nights of 5-of-12 against Seattle, 7-for-12 against Denver and 4-of-11 against Denver were cushioned by bookend efforts of 1-of-8 against Houston on Jan. 10 and 0-for-6 in Utah's 102-98 loss at San Antonio on Thursday.

That — not what the future holds — has been Russell's primary focus of late.

"I've been worried about my injury more than anything," he said. "I know I can play; I know what I'm capable of doing. I just had a minor setback this year because I got injured, so I'm not worried about 'the trade,' or 'the rumors,' or whatever."


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com