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: June 29, 2009 11:52 pm
A few months ago, Jazz forward Carlos Boozer was so convinced he would opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent that he proclaimed, "I'm opting out, no matter what. I'm going to get a raise regardless."
Posted on: June 29, 2009 6:18 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2009 11:32 pm
With the stunning news that the Milwaukee Bucks decided Monday not to make a qualifying offer to Charlie Villanueva came confirmation of what we already knew: This is going to be a strange free-agent signing period in the NBA, one in which conventional wisdom need not apply.
By dumping Richard Jefferson on the Spurs, the Bucks seemed to be clearing cap space to keep restricted free agents Ramon Sessions and Villanueva. But Sessions got a qualifying offer and Villanueva didn't, making him an unrestricted free agent at midnight Wednesday.
In a league that is increasingly becoming about the haves and have-nots, one team's problem is another team's savior. Fresh off their pre-draft acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal, the Cavs are looking for a versatile big man to complement the Big Cuyahoga while at the same time not clogging the floor for LeBron James. Enter Villanueva, who would appear to be an ideal piece for GM Danny Ferry's plan of making a serious championship run this season.
When the Cavs acquired Shaq, Villanueva wrote the following on his Twitter account: "Very interesting, Shaq to Cleveland, nice, all Cleveland [needs] is a PF now."
Also in that mix is Pistons unrestricted Rasheed Wallace, who could be an attractive option for Cleveland and Orlando, among others.
The problem is, the best the Cavs could offer Villanueva is the mid-level exception of about $5.5 million. Short of that, a sign-and-trade would work, but the Cavs divested themselves of their two most tradable assets -- Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic -- in the Shaq trade. The Villanueva decision also has a direct impact on the Pistons, who are among the teams with the most money to spend on free agents. Joe Dumars is believed to be targeting Carlos Boozer and/or Hedo Turkoglu. But the availability of Villanueva makes his decision a lot more interesting.
UPDATE: The Bucks' thinking behind not extending a qualifying offer to Villanueva was discussed internally at least two dozen times, a person with knowledge of the situation said. The person, who is familiar with the team's strategy, said matching Villanueva's offers as a restricted free agent -- or possibly keeping him on the one-year tender for about $4.7 million -- would've rolled back the flexibility general manager John Hammond had just achieved by trading Jefferson, who was due $29.2 million over the next two seasons.
Whereas most observers -- including rival team executives -- believed the Jefferson trade opened the door for Milwaukee to re-sign both Villanueva and Sessions, there's a chance the team won't keep either one. The organization is determined to get out of the rut caused by overpaying the likes of Bobby Simmons, Charlie Bell, and Dan Gadzuric in similar situations in the past. If the offers received by Sessions on the restricted market are fair, Milwaukee will match. If not, the team is planning to hold the line on not overpaying.
Another factor with Villanueva is that, given the economy and dearth of teams with cap space to sign free agents, the organization believes it is feasible that Villanueva won't be blown away by free-agent offers and thus would have been inclined to accept the one-year offer for $4.7 million. The Bucks didn't want to be in a position of having to rescind the non-binding qualifying offer, which would've hampered Villanueva's efforts to land a free-agent deal. Having chosen to get their financial house in order and preserve the possibility of being as much as $7 million under the cap in 2010, the Bucks' hierarchy felt it was better to be up front with Villanueva and allow him unfettered access to the free-agent market. Although a sign-and-trade technically remains an option, the Bucks aren't interested in jeopardizing their roster and cap flexibility by taking on the kind of contracts that would come back in such a deal.
Clearing up one piece of draft business: While one of the many executives who spoke with the Nets on draft night came away convinced that the team had selected Terrence Williams for someone else with the No. 11 pick, a person with knowledge of the situation said Monday that T-Will is most likely to stay in New Jersey. On the heels of trading Vince Carter in the hours before the draft, the Nets had conversations with numerous teams involving, among other things, the No. 11 pick. Nothing came to fruition, and while the Nets are still listening, it appears that Williams is staying put for now.
Posted on: March 11, 2009 2:47 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2009 10:02 pm
The last time the Utah Jazz were winning like this, John Stockton was running the pick-and-roll with Karl Malone, Jerry Sloan was hoping for a third straight NBA Finals appearance, and the NBA was picking up the pieces after a damaging lockout.
With the Jazz, the names change but the song remains the same.
Utah tries for its 13th consecutive victory Wednesday night in Atlanta. Other than the fact that I surely just jinxed them, Sloan's crew is beginning to look as dangerous as any Western Conference team as we trudge into the final quarter of the NBA season.
You heard me, Lakers. Beware of the workmanlike, no-frills version of basketball artistry that is quietly getting warmed up in a big way in Salt Lake City.
UPDATE: And of course, I jinxed them. The Jazz fell in the second game of a back-to-back in Atlanta, losing 100-93 to the Hawks.
The Jazz won 11 in a row from April 1-18 in 1999. If they keep it going Wednesday night, they'll head to Florida this weekend with a shot at equaling the franchise mark of 15 straight, achieved twice during the 1996-97 season -- which ended with their first of back-to-back Finals losses to Michael Jordan's Bulls.
That night in what used to be called the Delta Center 11 years ago -- when Jordan picked Malone's pocket, dribbled the other way, and politely shoved Bryon Russell to the floor on his way to immortality -- seems like yesterday. Hard to believe it's been that long since the Jazz were in the Finals. Is it premature to start thinking they could be on their way back?
I don't think it's crazy.
I understand that as the fourth or fifth seed -- Utah is currently fourth -- the road would be exceedingly difficult. Assuming the Jazz could get past likely first-round opponent Portland, they'd be on a collision course with Kobe & the Lakers in the second round. The Jazz are 1-1 against the Lakers this season, playing both games without Carlos Boozer, who is back with a vengeance after missing 44 games with a knee injury. But Utah is 3-6 against the Lakers the past three seasons, becoming road kill for Kobe. Bryant is averaging 34.4 points per game and shooting .532 against the Jazz in the regular season since 2006-07. Kobe also scored 30 or more in five of the six games in the Lakers' 4-2 series victory in the conference semifinals last year.
If the Jazz fail to get past Kobe again, it'll feel an awful lot like their failure to get past Jordan in the Finals more than a decade ago. But sometimes a top-seeded team that seems destined for the Finals gets derailed by a hot team nobody wants to see in the early rounds of the playoffs. It happened to Dallas against Golden State a couple of years ago, and it's not farfetched to wonder if the Jazz could be that team this year.
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 19, 2008 10:07 am
Carlos Boozer was looking dapper in a nicely tailored suit Wednesday night as he stood in the bowels of the IZOD Center chatting with one of my competitors, Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com. What Boozer said during the interview has sent the already fragile Jazz into a tailspin.
What did Boozer say, you ask? That his strained left quadriceps tendon would keep him out until the All-Star break, or for the rest of the season? That Jerry Sloan was a grouchy old man? That Paul Millsap was the most overrated player in the NBA -- not the most underrated, the honor CBSSports.com bestowed upon him Thursday?
Nope. Nothing quite that controversial. Nothing even remotely surprising or combustible at all.
Boozer simply confirmed what anyone who follows professional basketball should have known: That he intends to declined his $12.7 million player option this coming summer and seek a long-term deal.
"I'm opting out. No matter what, I'm going to get a raise regardless," Boozer said. "I am going to opt out, I don't see why I wouldn't, I think it's a very good business decision for me and my family, but I'd also like to see what happens with the Jazz and stay here."
That quote rippled through the Jazz organization, all the way up to owner Larry Miller, who blistered Boozer on his weekly radio show Thursday.
"It's one of the top 10 stupidest things I've heard an NBA player do in 20 years," Miller said.
Why would this come as such a surprise? Top-tier players like Boozer and Kobe Bryant (early termination clauses in '09), plus LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade (player options in 2010) specifically negotiated escape clauses in their current deals -- escape clauses that kick in before the current collective bargaining agreement expires. A host of others -- Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Michael Redd, Yao Ming, Paul Pierce, Richard Jefferson, Tyson Chandler -- have early termination clauses in 2010. What's the big deal?
All of these clauses were negotiated so marquee players would have a chance to sign long-term deals -- in many cases, the last of their careers -- under the current rules. Once the CBA expires in 2011, most players and agents believe the new agreement will be less favorable to them and more favorable to the owners. All of the above players will get more money if they opt out or terminate their contracts before the CBA expires than they would if they waited.
James has parsed his words carefully in discussing his 2010 options, but he has all but said what Boozer said the other night -- that he plans to decline his player option and become a free agent. That doesn't mean James, Boozer, Bosh, Wade and others will leave their teams; after all, their current teams can pay them more and give them longer deals. Boozer went so far as to say that in his quote, adding that he'd "like to see what happens with the Jazz and stay here."
Despite the fact that Boozer was merely being honest and essentially stating the obvious, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan expressed disappointment with his comments. Boozer went into damage control mode with local beat reporters; here is the transcript of their conference call. Boozer and the Jazz tried to blame the messenger, a standard media relations ploy when someone says something controversial. The spin was that Boozer thought he was simply chatting off the record with Sheridan, who spent a lot of time with Boozer and teammate Deron Williams while covering Team USA's gold medal run in Beijing. Boozer even invoked the old "the reporter put words in my mouth" tactic. Don't believe it.
There was nothing off-the-record or sinister about this, and nothing really surprising or controversial, either. It's just business, people. Good business, at that. Can't be mad at Boozer -- or any other player -- for that.