On the first day of the free agency period, the Utah Jazz opened lines of communication with the seven players whose contracts expired and poked around at some other low-budget options.
But the team with space to fill and money to spend appears, at least for now, to be taking a patient approach. The Jazz have nearly $30 million in cap space, but that’s not money they’re eager to lock up in contracts, especially not long-term deals for players who will impede the progress of their young core.
“You’ve got to sit on your hands a little bit and understand that this first time around, these first five or six days, anybody that signs a deal, it’s usually a deal that’s in favor of the player,” Kevin O’Connor, the Jazz executive vice president for basketball operations, said on team-owned 1280 The Zone/97.5 FM.
The Tribune learned that the Jazz met with power forward Paul Millsap on Sunday night in Salt Lake City and expressed a “high interest” in re-signing the former second-round pick who became one of the team’s steadiest players.
While the two sides had a productive meeting, according to a source, the Jazz did not make an offer.
Millsap is expected to be one of the most sought-after big men this summer, but his future could depend somewhat on what happens with Dwight Howard.
Teams including Houston are expected to be interested in Millsap if they miss out on the Lakers’ center.
Al Jefferson, the Jazz’s highest-paid player the last three seasons, reportedly plans to visit Charlotte on Wednesday. The center is expected to be in pursuit of a maximum contract, which likely puts him out of the Jazz’s price range.
Jefferson averaged 17.8 points and 9.2 rebounds last season, leading the 43-39 Jazz in both categories.
On Monday, the first day players and teams could negotiate, the Los Angeles Clippers agreed to re-sign point guard Chris Paul to a maximum, five-year contract worth about $108 million. Other smaller deals that were reportedly agreed to included former Jazz point guard Eric Maynor to Washington and Mike Dunleavy to Chicago.
Players cannot sign contracts until July 10.
However, O’Connor said the Jazz were looking to add at least one more big man to round out a frontcourt that includes Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and first-round draft pick Rudy Gobert.
Sources told The Tribune that the Jazz had reached out to representatives for each of their other free agents DeMarre Carroll, Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson, Mo Williams and Randy Foye.
Initial reports Monday had the Jazz chasing Dallas shooting guard O.J. Mayo, although he was later more closely linked with the Clippers, and the agent for New York Knicks small forward Chris Copeland confirmed the Jazz had expressed interest in the 29-year-old. Copeland spent his career in the D-League and Europe before emerging as a rookie last year. He averaged 8.7 points and 2.1 rebounds for the Knicks.