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Borchardt wants no breaks

Injury-prone Jazz center is healthy for training camp

Center Curtis Borchardt hopes the Jazz pick up the optional fourth year of his contract later this month.
Center Curtis Borchardt hopes the Jazz pick up the optional fourth year of his contract later this month.
Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News

ST. GEORGE — For Curtis Borchardt, October represents a make-or-break month at the start of what could be a make-or-break season in his so-far short NBA career.

The Jazz center seems to know that, too. But boy does it ever hurt him to hear it.

"Well," Borchardt said when presented with the notion of 'make-or-break,' "I never like to say the word 'break.' "

Order up one rim-shot, please — even if fractures are no laughing matter for the 7-footer from Stanford.

One broken finger. One severely broken wrist. And a stress fracture in his previously screw-stabilized foot.

Borchardt has endured all that, not to mention enough ribbing about brittle bones to open his own barbecue joint, since being selected No. 18 overall in the 2002 NBA Draft.

Over the course of two years, he has managed to play in just in 16 games — all early last season.

The last thing Borchardt wants to hear about is another break.

Yet he could be on the receiving end of a bad one — if he cannot convince the Jazz between now and the end of October that they should extend his rookie contract to a fourth season in 2005-06.

If Utah does not want him then, who can know for certain if another NBA team will consider him worth the risk?

A decision in the same regard must be made on backup point guard Raul Lopez, and the Jazz — barring unforeseen serious injury — seem quite inclined to pick up Lopez's fourth-year option by the end of the month.

The call on Borchardt apparently is a much-tougher one, though, and the Jazz simply are not sure as of now what they will do.

Borchardt understands and realizes his play during training camp and seven preseason games will go a long way toward influencing their decision.

"You know, I know that I'm gonna go out and give it my best, and hope to stay healthy," Borchardt said. "If I do, great. If I don't, there still might be more chances, (or) there might not.

"But," he added, "you can't worry about that type of stuff."

If the Jazz do extend Borchardt's deal through 2006, and he suffers a career-threatening injury sometime this season, they would be on the hook — both monetarily, and with a roster spot — for one more year than absolutely necessary.

But if the Jazz do not extend and Borchardt winds up having a breakout season in 2004-05 — there's that ugly word again — they risk losing, as an unrestricted free agent next summer, the commodity that is a bona fide big man. Or they can re-sign him themselves, albeit at a potentially higher cost that if they did it now.

There is precedence for Utah holding on to a risky pick for a fourth season, then turning him into something worth their while: Remember DeShawn Stevenson being dealt for Gordan Giricek just last February?

Whether the Jazz will think that way regarding Borchardt — whose NBA value has yet to be determined — remains to be seen.

All Borchardt can do, then, is put the burden for the right call on the Jazz.

"I want to come in and have a great camp," he said, "and let them make that decision."

Either way, Borchardt does appear to be in the plans for this season.

He says his "agility is so much better than it was at the beginning of last season," he feels healthier "than I have, ever," and he is rarin' to go.

But with newly acquired Mehmet Okur playing center at $50 million over six seasons, and with newly acquired Carlos Boozer playing power forward at $68 million over the same span, and with big man Jarron Collins re-signed this past summer, playing time might prove tough for the 24-year-old to come by.

Borchardt knows that as well but figures there is a way to overcome the reality.

"The great thing about coach (Jerry) Sloan is he doesn't really care what kind of contract you have," Borchardt said. "If you play hard and play basketball the way he wants you to, you're gonna earn some minutes.

"So that's been my approach the whole time," he added. "Obviously they signed two great front-court players (in Okur and Boozer), but I don't think that means there's no room for improvement and no room for me to get some minutes in there, too — if I earn it."

Or if he gets a great break.