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Will Jazz trade Kirilenko's expiring contract? Don't count on it

Published October 24, 2010 6:32 pm

Expiring contract • AK's situation similar to Boozer's last year.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Utah Jazz have always preferred continuity over change — familiarity over transition.

This season, however, the Jazz appear to have a significant chip to play before the NBA trade deadline in February.

Andrei Kirilenko owns an expiring $17.8 million contract, which the Jazz could use to make a major midseason adjustment to their roster.

Or not.

Although other teams might covet Kirilenko's contract for salary-cap purposes, Jazz General Manager Kevin O'Connor hints he's not inclined to trade Kirilenko during the season.

"The way Andrei has played for us in the past and the way he played in the preseason, he's a real key to our team," O'Connor said. "He really competes."

Trading Kirilenko is the most obvious way the Jazz could shake up their roster, but recent history offers another clue to Utah's intentions.

Last season, All-Star Carlos Boozer was, like Kirilenko, in the final year of a bulky contract.

It was obvious Boozer planned to leave the Jazz after the season, so the consensus was Utah needed to trade him rather than let him simply walk away.

Instead of dealing Boozer, however, the Jazz convinced him that playing well during the season would benefit everyone in the long run.

And that's what happened.

Boozer enjoyed one of his best years, and the Jazz won 53 games.

As expected, Boozer agreed to join Chicago after Utah was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs.

Utah, however, negotiated a sign-and-trade that ultimately landed it Al Jefferson and left some additional money to bring back Raja Bell.

Good for Boozer.

Good for the Jazz.

This year's Kirilenko situation could play out the same way, although the Jazz probably stand a better chance to re-sign him next summer.

"It's so tough to predict what will happen," Kirilenko said. "But the Jazz are definitely my first choice because I have spent so much time here.

"I have the friends here. I have kids in the schools. It would be tough to leave. … [Any] offer I get coming from the Jazz will be looked at first."

Last season, coach Jerry Sloan was an unflinching supporter of Boozer.

He speaks the same way about Kirilenko, when questioned about a possible trade.

"Andrei is a versatile guy who can play multiple positions," Sloan said. "He's been a huge part of it, and we want him to have a good year."

So beyond trading Kirilenko's expiring contract, what other situations could impact the Jazz at midseason?

No. 1, center Memo Okur is coming off Achilles tendon surgery.

Originally targeted to return in January, Okur is making steady progress and could come back sooner.

Still, nobody knows when he will be 100 percent.

"This is an injury that is tough to deal with," O'Connor said. "Memo wants to play. He wants to come back as soon as he can. But we're going to play it by ear."

Finally, the Jazz own a $6.5 million trade exception received as part of last year's Matt Harpring-Oklahoma City deal.

Utah could use the exception to acquire a player without giving up anyone in return.

A no-brainer way to bolster the roster?

Not necessarily.

The Jazz are already above the salary cap and, if O'Connor uses the exception, Utah's luxury tax bill would sharply increase.

As a result, it probably won't happen. Just like trading Kirilenko.

luhm@sltrib.com

Before & after

The Jazz's records at the All-Star break and at the end of the regular season since 2000-01:

All-Star break Final

Record Pct Record Pct

2000-01 32-15 .681 53-29 .646

2001-02 25-24 .510 44-38 .537

2002-03 29-20 .592 47-35 .573

2003-04 26-27 .491 42-40 .512

2004-05 17-35 .327 26-56 .317

2005-06 25-27 .481 41-41 .500

2006-07 35-17 .673 51-31 .622

2007-08 34-19 .642 54-28 .659

2008-09 30-23 .566 48-34 .585

2009-10 32-19 .627 53-29 .646