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Jazz say adieu to Rice

We're going with youth, O'Connor says

The Jazz bought out the fourth and final season of Glen Rice's $36 million contract on Friday, three days after they obtained the 36-year-old former NBA All-Star forward from Houston.

Having Rice come to Utah never really was in the plans for the Jazz, who ended up with him as part of a complicated deal with the Rockets for disgruntled big man John Amaechi and either one or two future second-round draft picks.

"As we are committed to a youth movement," Kevin O'Connor, the Jazz's senior vice president of basketball operations, said in a statement, "this provides Glen the option of being able to be released from his contract in a time frame which allows him to quickly seek other options."

The buyout, it is believed, saved the Jazz about $1 million — one more favorable facet among many to a trade largely engineered by O'Connor.

"It made the deal more appealing, certainly," said O'Connor, who while speaking later Friday added that both sides "kind of wanted to get (the buyout) done quickly."

That's because being bought out also was quite appealing to Rice, who does want to continue to play in the NBA — just in a locale other than Utah, where the Jazz in full-fledged rebuilding mode following 20 consecutive playoff seasons, the retirement of 41-year-old point guard John Stockton and the departure of 40-year-old power forward Karl Malone to the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I appreciate the professionalism that Utah afforded me in settling my contract," Rice, MVP of the 1997 All-Star Game, said according to a statement released by the Jazz's communications department.

Rice, also a member of the University of Michigan's 1989 NCAA title-team and the Lakers' 2000 NBA-championship club, was due to make $7.35 million this season. But the Jazz received $2.6 million in cash from Houston as part of the trade, which when applied to Rice's contract lowered their cost commitment to him to $4.75 million.

With the buyout, that figure, it was learned, went down to about $3.75 million.

Amaechi, meanwhile, will make $2.61 million for this season and has a player's option — one he likely will retain — that is worth about $2.88 million for the 2004-05 season.

Comparing what the Jazz would have owed Amaechi, who fell far out of favor with head coach Jerry Sloan during the big Brit's two years in Utah, to their approximately $3.75 million obligation to Rice, the Jazz come out roughly $1.74 million, and one less headache, ahead.

That's on top of the draft picks they received from Houston: a protected first-round selection that will come some time in the next five years, plus additional draft considerations (either a 2004 first-round pick originally owned by Chicago, or, more likely, two second-rounders originally belonging to the Bulls, one in 2005 and one in 2006).

With that bit of work behind him, O'Connor now looks forward to putting final touches on a team that has only one player aged 30 or older — 30-year-old center Greg Ostertag — among its 19-man roster for training camp.

"We keep looking," O'Connor, whose club plays its first preseason game Sunday vs. Dallas in Mexico City, said when asked what comes next.

"We still have cap room," added O'Connor, noting that the Jazz remain below the NBA's team payroll salary cap, enabling it to either sign another free agent or perhaps involve themselves in another trade.

The Jazz, who are expected to have 14 players under contract when the regular season opens Oct. 29, currently have 12 who own guaranteed deals. Another roster spot could go to point guard Mo Williams, the team's second-round draft choice last June.

Besides pursuing other possible trades, O'Connor plans to scan the NBA waiver wire in weeks to come.

"We like the idea," he said, "of trying to look out there and see if there's a player or two (available)."