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Andrei Kirilenko and Al Jefferson
The Jazz are hoping the tandem of Andrei Kirilenko and Al Jefferson pays off big.
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty Images

Calculated risk a regular part of the game for Jazz

By Art Garcia, NBA.com
Posted Oct 18 2010 7:19PM

The dice were rolled last season with Carlos Boozer. The burly power forward, one of Utah's franchise cornerstones, was going into the last season of his contract.

The Jazz didn't extend Boozer's deal, as they did with Mehmet Okur in the summer of 2009. General manager Kevin O'Conner also didn't pull the trigger on a Boozer trade, which would have been easy enough to do.

The Jazz instead held on to Boozer, figuring the former All-Star and Olympian was due for a bounce-back year. And while it would probably be his last in Utah, Boozer coming up big would pay dividends for the Jazz.

For a franchise that carefully guards its bottom line, finances play a part in most every Utah decision. And getting the most out of Boozer helped Utah finish 53-29 -- a five-game improvement on the previous season -- and reach the Western Conference semifinals.

Can the Jazz repeat the same stroke of good fortune and receive a better output out of Andrei Kirilenko? The lanky Russian is the owner of the second-largest expiring deal in the NBA, meaning AK-47 is as desirable a trade chip as Boozer was last season. Kirilenko's name was bandied about prominently in a proposed multi-team swap involving Denver's Carmelo Anthony.

"We want Andrei here," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "He's a huge part of what we've done and we need him."

Kirilenko, an All-Star in 2004, was once considered among the league's most-versatile performers at both ends of the court. Should he find that form once again, the Jazz would stand to benefit..

"Look, for the last the 10 years there's so many rumors around me, so I can end up on any team in NBA, but I'm still a Jazz man," Kirilenko said. "Hopefully, I'm going to stay the same way."

Kirilenko isn't the only one being asked to pick up the slack, and Boozer wasn't the only loss. Wesley Matthews signed a monster free-agent contact with Northwest Division rival Portland and Kyle Korver followed Boozer to Chicago.

Sidestepping the Glare
Former NCAA star Gordon Hayward is just looking to fit into Jerry Sloan's system.
Read more ...
Another Busy Summer
Flurry of offseason moves have positioned Utah for another postseason run.
Read more ...
It's Time to Win
Wolves refugee Al Jefferson is in a place where results should finally match his production. Read more ...

Among the new pieces joining All-NBA second team point guard Deron Williams are Sloan-favorite Raja Bell, lottery pick Gordon Hayward and double-double machine Al Jefferson.

"We've lost some good players," admitted Sloan who, entering his 23rd season, is easily the league's longest-tenured coach. "Hopefully we have someone that can come in and take their spots and move on. We lost John Stockton and Karl Malone, and came back and won 42 games. And that's the nature of this business. Our job doesn't change."

The Jazz have reached at least the West semis three times in the last four seasons. Jefferson not only replaces Boozer, but the former Minnesota standout is filling in at center while Okur recovers from Achilles surgery. No timetable has been placed on Okur's return.

Jefferson has added about 10 pounds to his 6-foot-10 frame, getting up to 275 to handle the rigors of playing in the middle. Williams figures his passing is going to net Jefferson another 6-8 points a game. Big Al averaged 17 last year with the Timberwolves.

"He's going to score points," Sloan said. "He's still getting comfortable with us and we're still trying to get comfortable with him as well. It takes time and I appreciate his hard work."

Sloan isn't sure how the new-look Jazz will come together. The no-nonsense coach is nothing if not honest.

"We'll see. There's no guarantee of anything," Sloan said. "That's what makes it exciting to see what you come up with. I'll be honest, I hate to lose those players because I thought we were developing some continuity, but they were free agents. That worked for them."

It's also worked out for Paul Millsap. No longer having to worry about Boozer blocking his path, the power forward gig belongs squarely to Millsap. The organization matched a $32-million offer sheet before last season for the 2006 second rounder in another calculated risk.

Such moves illustrate how the Jazz do business. Trading for Jefferson instead of getting into a bidding war for Boozer and sticking with Kirilenko, for now, could come back to bite Utah. Or they could pay off big.

"I know they're committed to win," Williams said of management. "The moves they made this year, I think, made our team better after we lost the guys we lost."

 
1. GOTTA BE ON POINT
Deron Williams may have graduated to the top of the playmaker class last season. Without his orchestration, the Jazz are an unlistenable tune.

2. FINDING THE RIGHT BLEND
The system in Utah is sound. Getting the additions such as Al Jefferson, Raja Bell (second tour) and Gordon Hayward acclimated quickly is crucial.

3. DOUBLE POWER FORWARD LOOK
Much was made of Paul Millsap and Carlos Boozer playing together. Now it's Millsap and Jefferson who have to make it work.


Art Garcia has covered the NBA since 1999. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

AT A GLANCE

LAST YEAR: 53-29, 2nd in Northwest

FINISH: Lost in Western Conference semifinals

2009-10 Regular Season Standings

2009-10 TEAM LEADERS

Carlos Boozer

19.5 PPG

Carlos Boozer

11.2 RPG

Deron Williams

10.5 APG

2009-10 STATISTICS

  OFFENSE DEFENSE
PPG 104.2 98.9
RPG 42.2 39.2
APG 26.7 19.9
FG % 0.491 0.449
3PT % 0.364 0.354
FT % 0.741 0.762
  Complete 2009-10 Stats 
STARTING FIVE

PAUL MILLSAP, FORWARD

11.6 PPG | 6.8 RPG | 1.2 BPG

Scoring and rebounding numbers dipped last season, but so did his role with Carlos Boozer healthy. Poised to step into some bigger shoes again.

ANDREI KIRILENKO, FORWARD

11.9 PPG | 4.6 RPG | 1.4 SPG

Can impact game at both ends, but injuries and attitude have knocked him off track in recent years. This could be a redemption season.

AL JEFFERSON, CENTER

17.1 PPG | 9.3 RPG | 1.3 BPG

Owns nearly 100 career 20-point, 10-rebound games. Takes over at center with Memo Okur on the mend. Finally getting a chance to play for a winner.

DERON WILLIAMS, GUARD

18.7 PPG | 10.7 APG | 4.0 RPG

Consummate quarterback finished third in assists last season and seventh with 44 double-doubles. Also earned first and long overdue All-Star nod.

RAJA BELL, GUARD

11.8 PPG | 3.8 RPG | 2.2 APG

Returns for second stint with Utah after missing most of the last season. Known for his grit, defense and willingness to stand up to anyone.

RESERVES
NAMEHTWTPOSCOMMENT
C.J. Miles6-6210GAveraged 9.9 points last season. Can easily move from sixth man to starter if needed.
Gordon Hayward6-8200FNinth overall pick hopes to make a name for himself as a team-first guy.
Sundiata Gaines6-1185GFormer D-League standout provides a burst of energy and enthusiasm, and can light it up.
 Complete Roster 
OFFSEASON MOVES

ADDED: Gordon Hayward, Raja Bell, Francisco Elson, Earl Watson, Al Jefferson

LOST:  Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Wesley Matthews, Kosta Koufos

MAN ON THE SPOT

PAUL MILLSAP, FORWARD

The questions about his role are gone. Millsap knows he's a starter from Day 1. The challenge now is to remain focused throughout games and expand his presence. There's no need to worry about when he's going in or coming out. "This is the first year he's going to get the minutes he deserves," Deron Williams said.

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