Posted on: May 9, 2010 12:40 pm
With another playoff rout at the hands of the Lakers looming on Monday, the Utah Jazz find themselves in a familiar position. No organization has enjoyed more stability or embraced the same style of play for as long as the Jazz have under Jerry Sloan. And perhaps no top-tier team has fallen short in the postseason as much, either.
Utah has endured only one losing season in Sloan’s 21 years on the Jazz bench and has earned a spot in the draft lottery only twice. Contrary to late owner Larry Miller’s past assertions that his team would never pay the NBA luxury tax, the Jazz made that commitment last summer when they matched Portland’s offer for restricted free agent Paul Millsap. The commitment was renewed when Sloan persuaded ownership not to trade Carlos Boozer on the last year of his contract at $12.7 million this season.
Despite another playoff disappointment, GM Kevin O’Connor told CBSSports.com recently that the Jazz are prepared to be a tax-paying team next season, too. Whether that entails keeping Boozer, an unrestricted free agent, remains to be seen. But what’s clear is that the Jazz are at a unique crossroads for any franchise – venturing into the second round of the playoffs with a team that has won 50-plus game three of the past four seasons, and owning a lottery pick in the upcoming draft.
By virtue of a trade with Phoenix, the Jazz own the Knicks’ first-round pick, which was conveyed to the Suns as part of Isiah Thomas’ ill-fated trade for Stephon Marbury in 2004. The Marbury trade continues to be the gift that keeps on giving in two proud Western Conference cities. The Suns used the resulting cap space to sign Steve Nash, who has led Phoenix to within one win of the conference finals. By virtue of the Knicks’ 29-53 record this season, the Jazz are slotted ninth in the lottery order with a 1.7 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick.
Utah is 1-for-2 in its two most recent forays into the lottery. Coming off a 42-win season in 2003-04,O’Connor held out hope that he’d be able to land No. 1 pick Dwight Howard. He wound up with 14th pick Kris Humphries instead. After a 26-win season in ’04-’05, Utah got the third pick and drafted franchise centerpiece Deron Williams.
“I think with the fact that we’ve only had one year with a losing season and were fortunate enough to get Deron Williams has really helped,” O’Connor said.
With a playoff-ready roster, a lottery pick, and a commitment to capitalize on both by paying luxury tax again, O’Connor hopes he’ll be able to parlay that flexibility into a series of moves that finally will push the Jazz past the second round for the only the second time since Michael Jordan put a dagger in them in back-to-back NBA Finals more than a decade ago.
“Larry had said at one point he’d never pay [luxury tax,” O’Connor said. “He said it a couple of times. But then he said, if we know that we’re going to have a very good team and it’s not for a long period of time, he certainly would expect to do that. I think it’s a commitment going forward. I don’t think it’s a commitment that we’ve broached yet. We need to see what the numbers are going to be and everything else. But I think we’ve proven already that we’re willing to pay it and I think the results have justified us paying it.”
Portland’s offer sheet for Millsap was heavily front-loaded with a poison pill designed to force the Jazz to choke on the luxury-tax implications. Utah matched anyway, and Millsap’s salary declines from $10.3 million to $6.2 million next season. Boozer’s $12.7 million salary comes off the books, and there has been only one publicized discussion between O’Connor and Boozer’s agent, Rob Pelinka, about re-signing with Utah. The situation gives O’Connor the flexibility to explore sign-and-trade scenarios, and sources say you can expect high-level discussions with Miami on a Boozer trade at the February deadline to be rekindled.
The point is, as bleak as things look for the Jazz now – and as much as this resembles a seemingly endless replay of postseason heartache – the franchise is positioned better than it has been in years to finally take the next step. At a time of year when coaches are getting fired and teams are enduring front-office turmoil, the Jazz just keep sticking with the status quo because the status quo has worked.
“I think the stability has come from the fact that we’ve consistently won,” O’Connor said. “I don’t think you have stability without that.”
I know this is getting old, but maybe this is the year it finally pays off.
Posted on: October 27, 2009 7:59 am
Edited on: October 27, 2009 7:18 pm
CLEVELAND -- It appears that Rajon Rondo will take the floor for the season opener in Cleveland Tuesday night with the knowledge that he won't get the contract extension from the Celtics that he's been seeking.
Posted on: July 14, 2009 12:04 am
LAS VEGAS -- Working under the assumption that the Utah Jazz will match Portland's $32 million offer sheet for Paul Millsap, the wheels are in motion to find trade possibilities for Carlos Boozer.
According to a person involved in the process, Boozer's camp has explored trade possibilities with Miami, the Knicks, Golden State, and Detroit, among others. The scenario is complicated by the fact that Utah would want to bring back as little salary as possible to avoid luxury-tax ramifications, meaning a third team would have to be recruited as a salary dumping ground.
Oklahoma City, with $11.5 million in cap room, is the most logical choice. But the Thunder don't appear to be willing to disrupt their financial horizon. Memphis has room and will get $5.2 million more on Friday from the Jerry Stackhouse buyout. The Pistons cleared $1.8 million more by trading Arron Affalo and Walter Sharpe to Denver for a second-round pick and cash. The Pistons now have more than $5 million in cap space and could emerge as a factor in the Boozer talks, the person familiar with the situation said.
The Jazz likely will make the Blazers wait the full seven days before matching, which could slow progress on the Boozer front. If the Jazz follow through on their intentions and match the offer sheet, they would be close to $12 million into the luxury tax and would need to trade Boozer before the February trade deadline to ease that penalty.
Posted on: July 12, 2009 8:54 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2009 10:43 pm
LAS VEGAS -- With their four-year, $32 million offer sheet for restricted free agent Paul Millsap, the Trail Blazers have woven a web that has ensnared bonus money, luxury-tax considerations, and the future of Carlos Boozer. Based on conversations with NBA front office sources, here's an attempt at untangling it:
Utah is currently about $3 million over the luxury tax. If they match the offer sheet for Millsap, they'd be close to $12 million over. A person familiar with Utah's situation said the team has accepted the fact that it is going to be a tax-paying team, but nobody expects the Jazz to venture that far into the land of the taxpayers. So something has to give.
In order to keep Millsap and get under the tax threshold of $69.9 million, Utah would have to trade Boozer (due to make $12.7 million next season) and take virtually no salary back. The only way to do that is to recruit a third team that is under the cap -- one that is willing to take on salary for the price of draft picks and cash.
At this point in the free-agent period, only two teams remain under the cap: Oklahoma City, which is getting plenty of calls from teams looking to recruit them as a trade partner, and Portland. The Blazers aren't interested in Boozer; they already have a starting power forward, LaMarcus Aldridge, and covet Millsap for his willingness to be a role player and contribute in ways that vary from the traditional post-up forward. Oklahoma City is the key.
UPDATE: The Thunder currently are about $11.5 million under the cap, but aren't eager to use that space by becoming a dumping ground for contracts shed in a Boozer deal, according to sources. Despite its acquisition of Zach Randolph, Memphis surprisingly has several million dollars in wiggle room -- and will get $5.2 million more on Friday, when their Dallas-assisted buyout of Jerry Stackhouse hits their books.
One interesting aspect of this tale is the fact that Utah is in better financial shape to match Millsap's signing bonus than was originally assumed. The maximum signing bonus that can be included in an offer sheet is 17.5 percent of the total contract -- in this case, $5.6 million. Many NBA teams would have trouble writing a check that big without borrowing the money, but Utah, according to NBA front office sources, isn't one of them. The team's only debt is a small amount owed on its arena, so paying Millsap a signing bonus would be "a non-event for them," according to one of the sources.
The signing bonus is prorated for the life of the deal for cap purposes to preserve the structure of year-to-year raises prescribed by the CBA. But Utah must front that money to Millsap in order to meet the exact requirements of matching the Portland offer.
UPDATE: If the Jazz decide to venture deep into tax territory by matching the Millsap offer, they would have a few months to find the best deal for Boozer. They wouldn't be locked into a tax level until the February trade deadline, when they might get better offers from teams eager to clear 2010-11 cap space by acquiring Boozer's expiring contract. But their leverage also might diminish because teams would know they were desperate to shed tax money.
From the Blazers' standpoint, it's not clear what their options would be if Utah matched the offer sheet. Portland has between $7.7 million and $9 million in cap space, which was preserved when Hedo Turkoglu backed out of his verbal agreement and signed with the Raptors. If the Blazers don't use that money this season, it won't be available next summer because they will have to use it to sign Brandon Roy and Aldridge to extensions.
Confused? Hopefully less so than before you started reading.
Posted on: July 1, 2009 5:08 pm
Edited on: July 1, 2009 6:46 pm
With Carlos Boozer off the free-agent market, other free agent forwards are getting ready to cash in.
While Charlie Villanueva was being courted by the Pistons, CBSSports.com has learned that restricted free agents David Lee and Paul Millsap were preparing to field offers as early as Wednesday night. Millsap, the Jazz forward who could benefit the most from Boozer deciding not to opt out of his contract, has heard from three of the four teams with significant cap space -- Oklahoma City, Memphis, and Detroit -- plus a fourth team inquiring about a sign-and-trade. Lee has heard from numerous teams, including Oklahoma City and Memphis, and was expecting inquiries to escalate into offers in the next 24 hours. Despite their focus on Wednesday's meeting at Madison Square Garden with point guard Jason Kidd, the Knicks were among the first teams to reach out to Lee's camp and expressed an interest in keeping him.
While Villanueva was seen as a strong possibility for Cleveland, which may need to replace free agent Anderson Varejao, people in contact with the Cavs' front office say Cleveland is in wait-and-see mode and appears to be strategizing for the second wave of free-agent activity.
UPDATE: OK, the wait's over. Brian Windhorst of the Plain Dealer reports that the Cavs -- and LeBron James himself -- are actively recruiting Ron Artest. There will be more developing on this front throughout the evening.
Rasheed Wallace got a visit from Celtics president Danny Ainge at his home shortly after midnight Wednesday and was getting interest from other contenders.
Like Artest (whose situation isn't directly affected by Boozer's), Lamar Odom (whose situation is) also was preparing to field offers Wednesday. The Suns and Spurs reportedly were among the teams courting Odom, while the Lakers were actively working to keep both of their unrestricted free agents, Odom and small forward Trevor Ariza.
Posted on: December 30, 2008 5:56 pm
After undergoing a third series of MRIs on his left knee, Boozer will undergo an arthroscopic procedure to diagnose and repair the problem, the team said in a news release. Due to a cut on Boozer's knee near the scope site, the procedure will be delayed until Jan. 9.
Ouch. The team offered no timetable for Boozer's return, but you have to believe he'll be on the shelf until at least the All-Star break -- maybe longer. Boozer hasn't played since Nov. 19, missing 21 games and counting. His replacement, Paul Millsap, was productive with 15 consecutive double-doubles until spraining his left knee last Tuesday against the Bucks. Millsap has missed three games, and although Utah is 2-1 without both Boozer and Millsap, this is another huge blow to a team that has been riddled with injuries this season.
Posted on: December 16, 2008 10:52 am
* In a sign that his sense of self importance knows no boundaries, Stephon Marbury is planning to attend Tuesday night's Knicks-Lakers game at Staples Center. How, you ask? Hasn't he been banished from the team? Why yes, loyal BergerSphere reader, he has. But that $22 million he's getting paid is good for something, like buying a courtside ticket. This is strange, and sad. Where does strangeness and sadness end and stalking begin? The Knicks could become the first team in NBA history to take out a restraining order against one of their players.
* Strange but true: All six coaches fired this season share the same agent, Lonnie Cooper. If I were Jim O'Brien, also a Cooper client, I'd be sweating profusely. Just for grins, guess which infamous basketball figure also is/was represented by Cooper? You got it, Isiah Thomas. A proposed position paper for any and all aspring sports agents out there: Did Isiah Thomas ruin Lonnie Cooper's career? Discuss.
* Dime starts a good debate about which NBA team has the best local TV announcers. If you live in the NYC area, gotta love Mike Breen and Clyde Frazier, as long as you are experienced at reading between the lines of their Cablevision-filtered commentary. I have to admit, Clyde's fluidity, his shakin' 'n bakin' 'n percolatin' have grown on me. If you're a Lakers fan, you can't do better than Joel Myers on play-by-play. I would add a wrinkle to Dime's unofficial poll: Which team has the worst local TV announcers?
* Empty The Bench names six double-double machines who aren't household names.
* Mark Jackson struck out in his bid to become the Knicks' coach this past summer. But with at least six teams in the market for a new coach next summer, Jax's chances of landing a job are off the charts. I'd quibble with his approach in this one respect: Maybe he would've been better served to pursue an assistant's job so that he could parlay that experience into his pursuit of a head coaching job in '09.
* When TrueHoop pointed out an ad for a "Derrick Coleman Estate Sale," it was only natural to wonder if DC had squandered the more than $90 million he earned in his NBA career and needed to sell stuff to raise money. Not so, Coleman insists.
* My favorite stat lines from Monday night's games were in the losing teams' box scores: Miami's Mario Chalmers had 20 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds in a 98-83 loss to the Bucks, and Paul Millsap had 32 points and 10 rebounds in a 100-91 loss to the Celtics.
* Breakin' Down The Game takes you around the NBA link-o-sphere, including an item on Bonzi Wells signing with a team in China for $40K? How could that be?