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Eisley bounces back to Utah for yet another tour of duty

By Linda Hamilton
Deseret Morning News
      Howard Eisley bounces a basketball for a living. He bounces back to the Utah Jazz pretty often, too.
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Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News
Howard Eisley drives by the Lakers' Tiere Brown. Claimed off waivers, the point guard is beginning his third stint with the Utah Jazz.
      Eisley played in a Utah uniform for the third time in his 10-year career Wednesday night, coming off the bench behind Keith McLeod during the Lake-Night 2004-05 season opener between the Jazz and Lakers in the Delta Center.
      In Eisley's latest Jazz debut, Utah defeated the Lakers, 104-78
      As a new free agent, he had signed his contract, good for $1.1 million for the season, just prior to 9 a.m. Wednesday and participated in the Jazz morning shootaround after clearing waivers from the Phoenix Suns, who bought him out for some $10 million a few days earlier so they could keep the first-ever Japanese NBA player, guard Yuta Tabuse, who played in the Rocky Mountain Revue.
      With Carlos Arroyo and Raul Lopez beginning the season on the injured list, Eisley's waiver was good fortune for the Jazz. He had to clear the 48 hours of waivers before he could hook up with the Jazz but used some of that time getting acclimated.
      Eisley spent until game time Wednesday trying to get warmed up — and caught up — with a familiar old team that still has the same coach, Jerry Sloan, but no John Stockton to back up and a two-guard system instead of the true-point-guard scheme he helped run from 1995-96 through 1999-2000.
      "It feels good to be back," said Eisley, who signed as a free agent with the Jazz the first time on Oct. 5, 1995, and lasted 25 days before being waived the day before Halloween, then was brought back from the Continental Basketball Association on Dec. 7, 1995, and stayed until Aug. 16, 2000.
      It wasn't all that long ago.
      But Matt Harpring, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, Raja Bell?
      Who are these guys?
      "I never played with any of these guys," said the Boston College product who grew up in southwest Detroit, where he was a high school teammate of NBAers Jalen Rose and Voshon Lenard.
      Familiar surroundings but unfamiliar teammates and ways.
      Which was why he was cramming so much before the game, even doing more studying between the pre-game warmup, during which assistant coach Gordon Chiesa was still tutoring him, and the start of the game less than an hour away.
      Did it help?
      Eisley wasn't noticeably off his game. He entered at 2:48 of the first quarter with the Jazz leading 20-8 and assisted a Harpring jumper at :55 and had four points, two assists and no turnovers in 11 first-half minutes. The Jazz increased their lead to 37-22 the first time he was in. He had a missed shot, assist and turnover in the third period and played the first half of the fourth quarter as the Jazz lead dwindled to 14.
      In 2000, playing behind Stockton, who showed no interest in retiring, Eisley sought more court time and left Utah for Dallas as part of the giant four-team trade that brought Donyell Marshall from Golden State and Bruno Sundov from Dallas. Sundov never played for the Jazz.
      Eisley did average four minutes and .4 points more a game in one season with the Mavericks than he had in his last year with the Jazz. Then the Mavericks shipped him in a three-team deal that reunited Eisley with former Jazz teammate Shandon Anderson in New York. When the Suns and Stephon Marbury clashed, the Knicks took him in a deal that sent Eisley and Antonio McDyess, among others, to the Valley of the Sun in early January 2004 - a deal that "surprised" Eisley. "I hadn't heard anything," he told the Suns' Web site at the time. He finished his Suns' stint last spring with April hernia surgery, and he played in just three pre-season games last month, averaging 2.7 points and 2.7 assists before the Suns waived him - at just the right time for the Jazz.


E-mail: lham@desnews.com