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Utah Jazz: Okur likely to opt out

Published June 28, 2009 8:09 pm

Agent says center will 'do what's best for him and his family.'
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Mehmet Okur is "leaning toward opting out" of his contract with the Jazz and could make the decision official as soon as today, Okur's agent, Marc Fleisher, said Sunday.

Okur would be opting out of $9 million he is due to make this season in order to become a free agent, raising the stakes for the Jazz as they attempt to keep their starting center, who also was the NBA's sixth-best three-point shooter last season.

The Jazz face opt-out decisions ahead of a Tuesday deadline from Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Okur. All indications Sunday continued to be that Boozer and Okur would opt out while Korver would not.

"I think he's looking to do what will make sense going forward for him," Fleisher said of Okur, "and whether that's with the Jazz or not, it's undecided at this point. We're going to look at all the options before he makes his decision."

Although he would be heading into an uncertain free-agent market, Okur has the advantage of being a national hero in his native Turkey, where he could return home and likely command a salary equal to or in excess of what he would make in the NBA.

That minimizes the risk in opting out of his contract with the Jazz. Okur's preference is believed to be continuing his career in the NBA, but playing either in Turkey or Europe has added appeal considering Okur's father, Abdullah, is in poor health.

Should he decide to stay in the NBA, Okur could re-sign with the Jazz or sign with one of a handful of teams that have significant salary-cap space. Beyond that, the Jazz and Okur would have to work out a sign-and-trade deal.

The Jazz could reach agreement on a contract extension with Okur before Tuesday, but Fleisher said he had no expectations of that happening. He also said Okur was "absolutely prepared" to leave Utah if it came to that.

Back in May, Okur commented on his Web site that he would be willing to take $3 million to $5 million less in a new contract to stay in Utah. Okur also said he considered himself one of the eight to 10 best centers in the NBA in that same interview.

"I'm not sure whether [the Jazz] misread it or didn't misread it," Fleisher said. "Memo's going to do what's best for him and his family."

Okur originally signed a six-year, $50 million contract with the Jazz in 2004 and was selected to the All-Star team in 2007.

He has been the Jazz's starting center the past four seasons, averaging 17.0 points and 7.7 rebounds last season while shooting 44.6 percent from three-point range. As arguably the Jazz's most clutch player, Okur has hit numerous game-tilting shots while in Utah.

The Jazz's internal options to replace Okur should he leave include only young centers Kosta Koufos and Kyrylo Fesenko.

Boozer, meanwhile, is expected to opt out, citing his desire for the security of a long-term contract and belief in himself as a franchise player. Korver is not expected to opt out, citing his desire to stay in Utah and a soft free-agent market overall.

There also was speculation Sunday that Oklahoma City might be preparing to make a push to sign Paul Millsap as a restricted free agent. Former Jazz director of player personnel Troy Weaver now is an assistant general manager with the Thunder.

The Thunder unsuccessfully tried to sign away C.J. Miles from the Jazz last summer. They are expected to have $11 million in salary-cap space and could offer a contract in the neighborhood of five years and $65 million to a free agent. Detroit and Portland also could be potential Millsap suitors.

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