The Utah Jazz were going to be facing some tough decisions in the coming days, as they needed to cut their roster down to 15 players by the NBA’s Oct. 17 deadline.
They started making those decisions after their final preseason game on Friday night.
Shortly after the final buzzer, Stanley Johnson was told by the Jazz that they would be waiving him, Johnson told the Deseret News.
Despite having worked himself into the Los Angeles Lakers’ rotation last season and proving to be a versatile and successful defender, and the Jazz decided to move on without Johnson on the roster after acquiring him alongside Talen Horton-Tucker in the deal that sent Patrick Beverley to the Lakers.
Johnson only appeared in one of the Jazz’s four preseason games, against the Portland Trail Blazers, and stood out as a defensive spark.
“This is the worst part of the job for sure,” Jazz head coach Will Hardy said after the game, before Johnson had been told that he was being waived.
“We have a lot of great guys here at training camp and we have a lot of capable players — a lot of guys that are roster NBA players — so we have some tough decisions to make.”
Once the news hit social media, many Lakers fans were excited at the prospect of Johnson once again being available, but there’s an NBA rule that prevents the Lakers from being able sign Johnson.
A player that is traded by a team then cut by the team that acquired him cannot be re-signed by the team that traded him until the end of that league year, which is on July 1 (or a one-year period, whichever comes first).
The only exception to this is if the player is traded to a third team and then waived again before the waiting period expires — then he would be able to sign with the original team.
Johnson, who was understandably upset, walked into the locker room after getting the news and told Horton-Tucker, who seemed shocked.
“Out of respect for the Jazz I don’t want to say anything else about the situation,” Johnson said, “but yeah, I’m out of here.”
The Jazz are expected to waive Cody Zeller, who is with the team on a non-guaranteed training camp deal. Having already waived Saben Lee and now Johnson, Utah still has to cut one more full contract player before the Oct. 17 deadline.
The players who seem most likely to be on the hot seat are Udoka Azubuike and Leandro Bolmaro.
Azubuike has had a string of bad luck with injuries during his tenure with the Jazz and has only recently been cleared for full participation in practice so has not been a part of of the preseason or training camp action in a meaningful way.
Bolmaro, like Johnson, only saw action during one of the Jazz’s preseason games despite being healthy and available.
In the Jazz’s final preseason game on Friday, a 115-101 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, with Malik Beasley (left ankle sprain) and Simone Fontecchio (left quad contusion) watching from the sidelines, Hardy played 11 players.
Those 11, along with the two injured players, seem like they will be the mainstays of the Jazz’s rotation, at least until the team makes other roster moves.
Those 11 players are:
- Lauri Markkanen
- Kelly Olynyk
- Mike Conley
- Jordan Clarkson
- Jarred Vanderbilt
- Collin Sexton
- Walker Kessler
- Rudy Gay
- Nickeil Alexander-Walker
- Talen Horton Tucker
- Ochai Agbaji
The Jazz will take a rest day on Saturday before returning to practice on Sunday. The deadline on Monday for the final regular season roster to be set is 5 p.m. ET.
“We’ve gathered a lot of information on these guys and our team over the last couple of weeks,” Hardy said of the upcoming decisions, “so it’s really about what’s best for our group at this point.”