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Arroyo Is Back In Utah's Fold…Ready To Step In For Stockton

Arroyo Is Back In Utah's Fold

By Tim Buckley Deseret Morning News

August 1, 2003
Copyright © 2003 Deseret News Publishing Co. All rights reserved.

Whiling away a hot and humid summer on the island he calls home, Carlos Arroyo heard one question over and over. "Everybody in Puerto Rico," Arroyo said, "was driving me crazy every day, asking me, 'Are you going to back to Utah?' "I would say, 'Yeah, I'm going back. I'm going back.' "

The truth, though: Arroyo didn't know. "I definitely wanted to come back," he said, "but it was not up to me." But finally, two-plus weeks after the NBA's free-agency signing period opened, Arroyo got his wish. With higher profile free agent point guards Andre Miller, Gilbert Arenas, Speedy Claxton and Tyronn Lue all signed elsewhere, the Jazz on Thursday re-signed Arroyo, their No. 3 point guard last season, to a one-year contract, financial terms of which were not disclosed. By accepting a short deal now, Arroyo hopes he can cash in a higher-paying contract next summer. "Like I said last year, 'Nobody's gonna give me nothing; I have to earn everything,' " said Arroyo, who turned 24 Wednesday.

"That's how it's gonna be this year." Arroyo returns uncertain if he will start or how much he may play. "It's going to be up to him," said Kevin O'Connor, the Jazz's senior vice president of basketball operations. "I think for the past 15 years we always knew who our starting point guard was going to be," O'Connor added. "I don't think we know this year."

But Arroyo does know that with the retirement of NBA all-time assists and steals leader John Stockton, the Jazz, even after Thursday, will continue searching for help at the point. "I don't know how the team is going to end up," he said.

Neither, for certain, does O'Connor, who said Arroyo's signing "doesn't mean we can't make a trade, get a veteran, be involved in something else. . . . But we had enough confidence, after what we saw last year, to sign him." Arroyo was the Jazz's first summer signing. Another potential signee -- swingman Stephen Jackson, a starter last season for NBA-champion San Antonio -- is in town today to visit team officials.

But Utah is not Jackson's lone stop. According to the Denver Post, Jackson also visited Denver on Thursday and will visit Atlanta early next week. Moreover, Jackson's agent, Dan Fegan, told the Post on Wednesday that he thought Jackson would be "a great fit" for the Nuggets. At 6-foot-8, Jackson can swing to small forward -- but it is at shooting guard that the Jazz would seek his help. If, that is, they even make him an offer. Thursday, Jazz officials didn't sound certain they would. "We're gonna sit down and visit with him, and see what he wants," O'Connor said.

All Arroyo wants is a chance to play. After four years at Florida International University, he had stints two seasons ago as an NBA rookie with Toronto and Denver. Last season, he appeared in just 44 of 82 regular-season games, playing mostly mop-up minutes behind Stockton and fellow vet Mark Jackson, whom Utah does not intend to re-sign.

This year, Arroyo is bound to battle 2001 first-round draft choice Raul Lopez, perhaps second-round draft choice Mo Williams and probably whomever else the Jazz bring in for playing time. That is why Arroyo -- who will play internationally this month for the Puerto Rican national team -- chooses not concern himself with the Jazz's pending personnel moves. "I've got to be thinking about Carlos Arroyo," he said. "I've got to work hard every day, and show them that I can play some minutes. "It's not going to be easy, because I know Raul's on the team, too, and he's going to want to play some minutes. But it's up to me to accept that challenge," Arroyo added. "I'm ready for that, you know? I worked hard all my life to be in this situation, and I think that if I get a chance to play, I'll show (coach) Jerry (Sloan) that . . . he can entrust in me as far as running the team."

Arroyo and Lopez, a native of Spain who has yet to play in the NBA because of knee injuries, have quickly become friends. "At the end of the season last year, I got more close to him," Arroyo said. "We used to come (to the Jazz's practice facility) and play one-on-one when everybody (else) was at home, and shoot around a little bit. Because I knew he needed that. But I needed that, too. "We're both definitely going to fight for some minutes," Arroyo added, "but we understand this is a situation where you've got to earn your minutes in practice, and show (Sloan) that you want to play."

Not that the two can't have some fun along the way. "We both speak the same language," Arroyo joked of he and Lopez, "so we can be talking about somebody else, and they don't know." There is only one message the Spanish-speaking Arroyo wants the Jazz to hear, though. "I don't want to let them down, you know?" he said. "I want to show them they made the right decision in bringing me back."

Arroyo Is Ready To Step In For Stockton

By Tim Buckley Deseret Morning News

October 3, 2003
Copyright © 2003 Deseret News Publishing Co. All rights reserved.

Former backups John Crotty, Howard Eisley, Jacque Vaughn and a gaggle of others were not good enough to do it. Andre Miller, who joined the Denver Nuggets rather than the Jazz this past offseason, perhaps was too intimidated to even try. Little wonder why. Assuming the starting point guard position long held in Utah by retired NBA all-time assists and steals leader John Stockton, after all, is no small task. The mere notion of attempting to do so, in fact, is downright intimidating. A couple of months ago or so, even Carlos Arroyo hedged on the issue of whether or not he was the man for the job. Arroyo, the Jazz's No. 3 point last season, said when he re-signed for a second season in Utah that he and rookie Raul Lopez "understand this is a situation where you've got to earn your minutes in practice and show (coach Jerry Sloan) that you want to play." Now, however, Puerto Rico's 24-year-old national hero is singing a new tune.

Stockton's old post is vacant, and Arroyo -- bound for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece after a summer of confidence-building international play -- is sure he can fill the void. "I feel I'm up to that and the challenge. I accept that," he said when the Jazz opened training camp earlier this week. "I've worked hard to do that, and I think I have enough experience and enough talent to play a lot of minutes this year," added Arroyo, who missed both sessions of Jazz two-a-day camp Thursday in order to personally attend a White House reception hosted by President Bush in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

"I think I can start, and I can play a lot of minutes." Arroyo is so certain he is ready that now he is kicking himself for not saying so back in late July. "I was thinking about it -- 'Why you said that, Carlos? Why are you not sure?' "

Perhaps it's because his summer of success was not yet complete. Before it was, Arroyo would wind up leading his native Puerto Rico to a berth in next August's Athens Games. He averaged 11.2 points and 4.7 assists as Puerto Rico's starting point in the FIBA Americas Zone qualifying tournament at San Juan, capping a 6-4 run with a bronze medal-winning and Olympic-clinching win over a Canada club led by Dallas Mavericks All-Star point Steve Nash. "This summer was real hectic -- and very competitive," Arroyo said.

"It was great for me, staying in shape the whole summer, playing the whole summer." Now, "I have confidence in myself. I have confidence in my game, and I understand that every day I'm getting better."

The FIBA tourney showing also was quite reassuring to Jazz brass, especially considering how former University of Utah star Miller spurned their overtures in the NBA free-agency market and how Atlanta eventually matched its offer-sheet deal with combo guard Jason Terry. If Arroyo had not played so well in the FIBA tourney, the Jazz might have brought in a veteran to run the point during Utah's first season post-Stockton.

Instead … "I'm not gonna bring a veteran in at this point," Sloan said Thursday. "I think we're gonna let it ride and see how the young kids bang into each other a little bit," added Kevin O'Connor, the Jazz's senior vice president of basketball operations. The "kids" include Arroyo, an undrafted Florida International University product who played 37 games with Toronto and Denver as a rookie in 2001-02 before signing with Utah as a free agent prior to last season; Lopez, the Jazz's 2001 first-round draft choice who has yet to play in the NBA due to two reconstructive knee surgeries; 2003 second-round selection Mo Williams, who has caught the eyes of Jazz coaches since being drafted after his sophomore season at the University of Alabama; and free agent Jermaine Boyette, a Weber State product invited to Utah's fall camp.

Arroyo has only 81 games worth of NBA experience, but that's 81 more than Lopez, Williams and Boyette combined, giving Puerto Rico's pride the inside edge on starting at the point when the Jazz's regular season opens Oct. 29. Until then, Sloan will watch, all the time hoping his faith in Arroyo and the rest reaches the level of Arroyo's newfound confidence in himself.

"If we get in and maybe have to do something like (sign a vet), I'll approach that bridge later," the Jazz coach said. "But I want these guys to have a chance. If they're not good enough, I'll get them out of here and get somebody else in." Arroyo is positive that in his case it won't come to that -- a platform on which he would not have stood so assuredly just a few short weeks ago. "I'm gonna get experience by playing a lot," he said, "and I'm gonna get better by playing a lot. "That's part of the reason they brought me back here -- because they see something in me that they like," Arroyo added. "And I see something in me that I like too."

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