By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst
Posted Jul 23 2009 2:00PM
While we all wait for Miami to finish up the summer by either signing Lamar Odom, matching or not matching Cleveland's offer sheet on Jamario Moon and trying to goose Utah into a Carlos Boozer deal...
This just in: Utah is not going to be goosed into doing a Carlos Boozer deal.
All summer, we've been given breathless updates as to who is "ahead" in the Boozer "sweepstakes," with the two-time All-Star making his preference for wearing Heat Black next season clear. Three-way trades, two-team trades, all kind of trades--to the Bulls, to the Heat, to the Knicks, with the emphasis on a supposedly imminent deal, the Jazz not possibly being able to welcome Boozer back into the fold next season.
There's a good chance Carlos Boozer is the starting power forward for Utah in November, with a slighly overpriced backup in Paul Milsap.
Let me say this one more time: Utah is not going to be bullied, rushed or otherwise forced into trading Boozer anywhere. The Jazz is not going to do a deal for a deal's sake, and certainly isn't going to do a bad deal. That doesn't mean Utah isn't listening to offers (it is) or won't ultimately get a deal done for Boozer (though Miami will have to do better than combinations featuring Udonis Haslem and Dorell Wright; if the first words out of Riles's mouth aren't "Michael Beasley," forget it).
Whether Boozer or Utah has it right about a supposed "agreement" to trade him (General Manager Kevin O'Connor publicly denied there was an arrangement on Tuesday; a Utah official used a very popular, two-syllable word with me to describe that claim, beginning with "bull..."), the Jazz is going to take its time looking at offers. It is true that Utah has made it clear it's not likely to re-sign Boozer to a huge contract extension after this season, but that's a different topic.
The Jazz will have no problem bringing Boozer back for all of 2009-10, if need be. The reasons are simple, which you would expect from an organization that does things simply:
1) There's no player that Jerry Sloan can't handle--with words, preferably, but behind the stands, too, if necessary. If Boozer is back, Sloan will coach him. Period;
2) Boozer is in a contract year. After missing 45 games last season with injuries, he is the one that has to prove to the rest of the league that he will return to his All-Star form if he's expecting a big payday next summer. The pressure isn't on Utah to trade him; it's on Boozer to show he's still got that lethal low-post game;
3) The Kobe Parallel. Bryant was as disgruntled with the Lakers as Boozer is with the Jazz just 26 months ago, demanding to be traded. Then, as now, there was breathless internet and other speculation that a trade was imminent; in this case, Bryant was supposedly seconds away from being traded to the Bulls--for Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, you name the Bull, he was going to Los Angeles. That this was Bryant's preferred destination, not the Lakers' preferred choice, was always deep in the agate type.
We know what happened: Andrew Bynum developed enough at center to quell Kobe's fears, the Lakers hijacked Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher came home, and two Finals appearances later, Kobe is now poised to be a Laker for Life. Moral: People can calm down. That doesn't mean Boozer will spend the rest of his career in Utah, but it does mean that circumstances change with time. If the economy doesn't pick up steam, and the gloomy forecasts the league has put out for 2010 are correct, Boozer may have a much smaller playing field from which to choose;
4) One more time: The Miller family, which owns the Jazz, is committed to paying luxury tax this year. It's going to be a huge check if they keep Boozer, more than $12 million on top of the team's payroll of $82 million. But they will write the check. If paying the tax is a family fortune-destroyer, the Millers wouldn't have agreed to give Mehmet Okur a $21 million extension that kicks in after next season.
Extending Okur and re-signing backup point guard Ronnie Price last week for two years and $2.63 million makes another trip over the cap all but a certainty; for the 2010-11 season, Utah is already committed to Andrei Kirilenko ($17.8 million), Deron Williams ($15.2 million), Okur ($10.5 million), Milsap ($7.6 million, which includes a percentage of his signing bonus that counts against Utah's cap), guard C.J. Miles ($3.7 million), Price ($1.38 million) and rookie guard Eric Maynor ($1.18 million), leaving it at more than $57 million in salaries for just seven players (unless Utah can move, say, Kirilenko, who'll be entering the last year of his deal).
The Jazz will also surely try to re-sign rising free agents Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer next summer and will have the Knicks' unprotected first-round pick as well -- which could easily be a lottery pick costing $2 to $4 million more depending on where it is. All of that will put Utah well over the salary cap, with the Jazz still needing another couple of players to fill out the roster. Matching Milsap's offer sheet, extending Okur and re-signing Price are not the actions of a cash-strapped franchise.
Just remember, no matter how much you hear otherwise: Boozer can't force a trade, to Miami or anywhere else. His leverage will come during the regular season, when he can play great every night and drive up his asking price next summer. Right now, Utah has all the cards that matter.
Clippers lone suitor for Sessions?
Several league sources said Wednesday that they believed the New York Knicks had abandoned their pursuit of Bucks restricted free agent guard Ramon Sessions, leaving the Clippers as the prime candidate for the 23-year-old. The Oklahoma City Thunder has a tangential interest, according to sources, but is not believed to be seriously pursuing Sessions.
With the Knicks still trying to keep as much cap room as possible for 2010, tying up funds in Sessions apparently is not a priority for New York, which is also in the midst of discussions with unrestricted free agent Andre Miller. However, the same limitations apply for Miller, who is looking for more than the one year offered by both New York and Philadelphia.
Despite already having Baron Davis and newly-acquired Sebastian Telfair at the point, the Clippers still want Sessions, who emerged as a solid backup and occasional starter over the last year and a half in Milwaukee, where he averaged 12.4 points and 5.7 assists in 79 games last season. The Bucks' trade of Richard Jefferson to San Antonio in June was done to help them have future flexibility, but Bucks fans hoped they might be able to retain either Charlie Villanueva or Sessions in free agency this summer.
But Milwaukee didn't tender an offer to Villanueva, making him an unrestricted free agent, and he signed with Detroit on the first day of free agency. Now, Sessions' future in Milwaukee is dubious at best, though the Bucks can match any offer.
Other guards, like Warriors' restricted free agent C.J. Watson, are in limbo until Sessions's status is resolved, and the Pacers' unexpected buyout of guard Jamaal Tinsley Wednesday only adds to the pool of available guards leaguewide. Several media outlets reported a few days ago that Watson was going to sign with Orlando, but the Magic's available room (around $1.6 million) was not enough to ensure that Golden State wouldn't match an offer for Watson, according to a source. Watson averaged 9.7 points last season for the Warriors, but wouldn't appear to be in the team's plans, with first-round pick Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, Stephen Jackson and Anthony Morrow on tap to split up most of the guard minutes next year.
The 76ers, looking for a defensive-oriented point guard if Andre Miller winds up elsewhere, still have an interest in Watson, and are also looking at a group of veteran point guards. Carlos Arroyo, who played last season in Israel for Maccabi Tel Aviv after playing parts of six NBA seasons with Toronto, Denver, Utah, Orlando and Detroit, is at the head of the list, according to a source, a group that also includes Tyronn Lue and Juan Dixon.
Wizards, Spurs potential destinations for Oberto
Free agent forward Fabricio Oberto will decide on an NBA team by next week, according to his agent, Herb Rudoy, with the Washington Wizards favored to sign him. Oberto, who is at home in his native Argentina deciding what he will do, has also mullng whether to return to the San Antonio Spurs, who sent him to Milwaukee in late June in the Richard Jefferson trade. However, a league source said Wednesday that the Spurs, while keeping their options open, are looking in another direction.
The Wizards have offered Oberto their bi-annual exception, set for next season at $1.99 million. That amount, combined with the $1.9 million that was guaranteed on Oberto's deal next season, would make the four-year NBA veteran financially whole for next year. Despite good Vegas Summer League play from young forwards JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche, Washington still believes it has a gaping need for a veteran big to back up center Brendan Haywood next season.
"He knows he wants to go where he can play on a team that has a chance to win," Rudoy said.
After going to Milwaukee, the 34-year-old Oberto was re-routed to Detroit in exchange for center Amir Johnson. But the Pistons had no intention of keeping Oberto, whose $3.8 million contract for next season was only partially guaranteed. They immediately waived him and collected $1.9 million in cap room, which, combined with letting Allen Iverson go and getting Johnson's contract off their books, helped create enough room for a free agent signing bonanza, including guard Ben Gordon and forwards Charlie Villanueva and Chris Wilcox.
Oberto was the Spurs' starting center on their last championship team two years ago, but injuries limited him to 54 games last season, and San Antonio went with a better perimeter shooter, Matt Bonner, at center. The Spurs effectively replaced Oberto by signing free agent forward Antonio McDyess to a two-year deal in June.
The Suns, Kings and Thunder have also made inquires about Oberto, who came to the NBA as a 30-year-old rookie after a stellar international career for teams in Argentina, Greece and Spain. His greatest achievement, though, may have been his stint with Argentina's teams that won the silver medal at the 2002 World Championships and the gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Despite offers to return to Europe to finish his career, Oberto wants to end his playing days in the NBA.
Cavs look inward for Kuester's replacement
The Cavaliers will not make an outside hire to replace top assistant John Kuester, who was named the Pistons' head coach earlier this month. Coach Mike Brown says he will promote from within instead, with Michael Malone becoming his new top assistant, Melvin Hunt moving up to number two assistant and Chris Jent becoming the third assistant. Veteran coach Hank Egan will remain behind Cleveland's bench next season in an advisory role.
Kuester had a high-profile role last season in Cleveland as the Cavaliers' offensive coordinator, as they finished with the league's best record before losing to Orlando in the Eastern Conference finals. Brown gave Kuester great leeway on the offensive side of the ball, letting Kuester call plays in the huddle and design the Cavaliers' halfcourt attack. Michael Malone, the son of longtime NBA coach Brendan Malone and the team's defensive coordinator last season, will have some of those additional responsibilities next season.
"Mike is the next guy who's deserving of a job on my staff if something were to come open," Brown said by telephone Wednesday. "We've all been in that spot ... all my guys coach, whether it's offense, defense or whatever."
Kuester had been an NBA assistant for more than a dozen years, with stops in Detroit, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Boston and Cleveland, before getting the Pistons' head job, replacing Michael Curry. Curry coached only one season in Detroit, and couldn't overcome the team's struggles last season -- the first time in seven years that the Pistons didn't make at least the conference finals. Brown also worked his way up, with stops in Washington, San Antonio and Indiana before becoming the Cavaliers' head coach in 2005 -- when, ironically, he replaced Brendan Malone, now an assistant in Orlando, as head coach.
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