Jazz intend to walk away from trade for Rockets' Ty Lawson

ByChris Broussard and Marc Stein ESPN logo
Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Utah Jazz, after strongly considering a trade for Houston Rockets point guard Ty Lawson, gave signals in advance of Thursday's 3 p.m. trade deadline that they are no longer interested in Lawson, according to league sources.

ESPN.com reported Wednesday that the Jazz and Rockets were engaged in advanced discussions on a Lawson deal, but sources said Thursday morning that the Jazz intend to walk away from a dice roll on the struggling point guard.

The Jazz are well-known to be in the market for a veteran point guard to steady their backcourt for the playoff stretch run and have looked at, among others, Atlanta's Shelvin Mack, who played with Jazz star Gordon Hayward at Butler.

Sources said Wednesday night that the Jazz were giving strong consideration to taking on Lawson in exchange for a package that would be headlined by former Utah lottery pick Trey Burke. The Jazz refused to make Burke available to the media both Wednesday night and Thursday morning after a practice and shootaround, respectively, to spare him from fielding questions about potential trades until after the deadline.

"There are rumors every day," Lawson told reporters Wednesday when asked about the proposed swap. "You can't really feed too much into it, and we'll see what happens."

Although trading for Lawson would have been an undeniable gamble for Utah, given his struggles throughout his first season in Houston, it's a gamble that would be mitigated by the fact Lawson made the $13.2 million he's owed next season fully unguaranteed as a condition to secure his trade to the Rockets last summer.

As such, Utah could essentially test Lawson out for the rest of the season and let him go without any financial impact going forward if it doesn't work out. Lawson, 29, was acquired by the Rockets over the summer to serve as another primary ball handler and take pressure off star shooting guard James Harden. But after just 11 games, Houston fired coach Kevin McHale, and his replacement, J.B. Bickerstaff, immediately benched Lawson in favor of Patrick Beverley. Lawson hasn't been able to win back the starting job and is averaging 6.3 points and 3.6 assists per game.

Sources say the Rockets, if the trade talks with the Jazz were to collapse and no other trade partner could be found, would strongly consider waiving Lawson.

Lawson had hoped the move to Houston would spark a turnaround in a career that has been slowed by off-the-court woes. Lawson has been suspended twice by the league for separate DWI arrests that occurred last year in Denver and Los Angeles.

In an attempt to help Lawson get back on track, Houston has partnered with John Lucas, the popular former Rockets player who is a recovering drug addict known for counseling numerous NBA players.

Lawson told reporters Wednesday he "definitely" wants to finish the season in Houston.

"I want to right the ship and finish the season out strong and definitely want to stay here," he said.

Burke, meanwhile, has been made available by the Jazz even though promising young point guard Dante Exum was lost for the season to an offseason knee injury. The Jazz (26-26), thanks to a recent seven-game winning streak, entered the All-Star break as the West's No. 8 seed and are in pursuit of a veteran floor leader they hope can help the young group secure a playoff berth.