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The Jazz have reached agreement on a contract with center Kyrylo Fesenko and are expected to announce the signing of their second-round draft pick as early as today, sources said Monday.
Fesenko will sign a three-year contract, and the Jazz will pay the $500,000 buyout to his Ukrainian team. Although Fesenko's development could take years, the Jazz have decided the best place for the 7-foot-1, 272-pound, 20-year-old is the NBA.
What Fesenko's signing means for Rafael Araujo, the Jazz's No. 3 center last season, remains to be seen. The Jazz have talked about inviting Araujo to training camp on a non-guaranteed contract with a chance to make the team.
But Araujo, an unrestricted free agent, is weighing his options, including the possibility of playing in Europe. The NBA career of the former No. 8 overall draft pick from Brigham Young could be on hold for now.
"He's not opposed to [Europe] at all, frankly,'' agent Jim McDowell said. "The NBA hasn't been all that friendly to this guy since he showed up, when you get down to it."
It is McDowell's belief that Araujo has been unfairly criticized for failing to live up to expectations when he has played sporadically throughout his three-year career. In fact, Araujo has played in the equivalent of just 33 full games.
After arriving from Toronto in a trade last June, Araujo played in 28 games for the Jazz, averaging 2.6 points and 2.4 rebounds. His hours spent working out before and after practice, however, have rarely translated into minutes on the court.
That's what makes Europe an attractive option for Araujo, one the Jazz have encouraged him to pursue. If his development has stalled in the NBA, it could be restarted with a new team overseas.
"The guy needs to see the court - he needs to play, he needs to play regularly,'' McDowell said. "At some point, that has to happen. So that's the driving force behind what we're trying to do here."
Fesenko, meanwhile, averaged 4.8 points and 4.3 rebounds with the Jazz's Rocky Mountain Revue team. It took more than three weeks, though, after the final Revue game to work out all the particulars that will bring him to Utah.
The negotiations involved six parties - starting with the Jazz and Fesenko's agent, Jason Levien, as well as the Cherkaski Mavpi club team, the Ukrainian basketball federation, FIBA and the NBA office in New York. Every change in the contract language had to be translated from English to Ukrainian or vice versa.
Fesenko, who has stayed in Salt Lake City and worked out since the Revue, was expected to take a physical, sign the contract and fly home to Ukraine on Wednesday. He is due back in Utah after Labor Day and in advance of training camp.
Kevin O'Connor, the Jazz's senior vice president of basketball operations, described Fesenko as a "work in progress" after the team acquired the project center in a draft night trade with Philadelphia.
But Fesenko surprised the Jazz, blocking three shots in one quarter of his first summer-league game. He will be given the chance to compete for minutes in training camp, but could spend time this season with the NBA Development League affiliate in Orem.
The Jazz swept in before the draft and persuaded Fesenko to rearrange his schedule and come to Salt Lake for a workout by expressing interest in bringing him to the NBA this season. Other teams wanted to keep him in Europe another season while retaining his rights.
Fesenko will become the Jazz's third center under contract, along with Mehmet Okur and Jarron Collins, and the 13th player on the roster, not counting still-outstanding qualifying offers made to C.J. Miles and Dee Brown.
Araujo is recovering from a groin injury but is working out in Santa Barbara, Calif., and is expected to be 100 percent by next week, McDowell said. Araujo, who turned 27 on Sunday, will not play for Brazil in the FIBA Americas Championship.
Briefly: Deron Williams' odds of making USA Basketball's final roster for the Americas tournament increased Monday when Kirk Hinrich withdrew for personal reasons. The U.S. team returns to training camp Wednesday in Las Vegas.
The U.S. must trim its roster from 16 to 12 by Aug. 21, the day before its first game against Venezuela. Williams could be the team's third point guard after Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups.
* Fesenko is expected to sign a three-year contract as early as today. The Jazz will pay the $500,000 buyout to his Ukrainian team.
* Fesenko averaged 4.8 points and 4.3 rebounds with the Jazz's Rocky Mountain Revue team.
* The 7-foot-1, 272-pound, 20-year-old was the Jazz's second-round draft pick.