The Jazz remain open to making a move before a 1 p.m. MT Thursday trade deadline, multiple sources told The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday, and Utah continues to make and listen to calls.
As of Tuesday evening, though, nothing was imminent. And the Jazz continue to view their most moveable pieces — Paul Millsap, Devin Harris and Al Jefferson — as equally, if not more, tradeable during the buildup toward the 2012 draft or the 2012-13 trade deadline.
All three starters are under contract through 2013, as is starting shooting guard Raja Bell.
While the Jazz are open to making a deal before the deadline to improve the long-term future of the team, key members within the organization believe Utah (20-21) can still gain ground in the Western Conference and qualify for a playoff spot.
Twenty-five games remain for the Jazz during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. With division-rival Portland (20-22) in a freefall — the Blazers fell 92-75 to Indiana on Tuesday and have lost six of eight — Utah moved into fourth place in the Northwest and was just 3.5 games behind the fifth-place Los Angeles Clippers in the West. The Jazz's depth and continuity have been crucial to the team's ability to stay near the .500 mark this season, and a Utah squad that's 15-6 at EnergySolutions Arena plays seven of 13 games at home during the final month of the season.
Bell is available to be moved, a source said Tuesday, and the 12-year veteran acknowledged Monday the trade deadline was discussed during a meeting with Utah coach Tyrone Corbin and general manager Kevin O'Connor. Bell said he has not requested to be dealt, though, and has no plans to ask for a trade.
With Harris' recent resurgence, the Jazz are less likely to move him before the deadline. Just two weeks ago, he was on the market, and his availability dated back to at least the 2011 draft. But Harris is averaging 11.2 points and 4 assists during March, and he's begun to find a groove with Jefferson. A source close to Harris said Tuesday they were informed Utah has no plans to deal him by Thursday.
The Jazz's C.J. Miles, Josh Howard and Jamaal Tinsley are being discussed in trade talks with San Antonio and Minnesota, according to HoopsWorld's Alex Kennedy.
The Tribune reported two weeks ago the Jazz were open to moving Miles, but he's unlikely to be dealt unless part of a package trade.
Several teams are interested in acquiring Miles, a slasher who can fire away from 3-point land, and has seven seasons of NBA experience despite only being 24. Miles will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, though, and there's no guarantee a team that gives up assets to acquire him for the end of the 2011-12 campaign has a real chance of re-signing him this summer.
Miles recently told The Tribune he's open to remaining with Utah after this year and, overall, he's had a solid season off the bench. But his minutes and productivity continue to fluctuate, and it's become increasingly likely this will be his final season with the Jazz.
Howard's been a free-agent steal for Utah. He's pushed his way into the starting lineup, and he's well-liked by teammates and coaches. Howard also recently told The Tribune he's open to signing an extension with the Jazz. But every game Howard plays with Utah — proving his return from an ACL injury is legitimate — makes him more attractive to other teams looking to add a veteran small forward this summer through free agency.
Millsap continues to be Utah's most moveable asset, and the Jazz are high on steadily improving second-year forward Derrick Favors, who could immediately step into the starting lineup. But Millsap is still highly valued by Utah. He's having another strong year, ranking second on the team in average points (15.8) and rebounds (8.9), while shooting 49.9 percent from the field and 82.1 percent from the free-throw line. He's a team player and a positive force in the locker room. And he alternates with Jefferson as the Jazz's main offensive weapon.
Jefferson is very likely to remain on Utah's roster. He's been the team's MVP this season and is playing better overall ball than ever; his burdensome $28 million contract turns into a $15 million expiring deal next season that could be used as a valuable trade chip; and while rookie center Enes Kanter is ahead of schedule in his development, he's not ready to consistently start in the NBA.
Brian T. Smith
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