Jazz to match Millsap offer
However toxic Portland's offer sheet to Paul Millsap was presumed to be, the Jazz's history alone was enough to know that they weren't about to turn their back on a forward out of Louisiana Tech.
Sure enough, the Jazz have decided to match the four-year, $32 million offer sheet Millsap signed last Friday with the Trail Blazers, a source close to the team said Thursday. The Jazz later confirmed the news on their Web site.
Despite the $10.3 million upfront payment they will make to Millsap, the Jazz's decision to match was widely expected, while also pushing Utah a step closer to potentially trading away two-time All-Star forward Carlos Boozer.
The Jazz are not expected to officially announce Millsap's return until today's deadline. Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor didn't return calls Thursday, as did DeAngelo Simmons, Millsap's agent.
Millsap's preference was believed to be a return to Utah, where he would be expected to start should the Jazz trade Boozer, as opposed to coming off the bench in Portland behind LaMarcus Aldridge.
The Blazers structured Millsap's offer sheet to make the Jazz think twice before matching, including a $5.6 million signing bonus and requiring that $4.7 million of Millsap's $6.3 million first-year salary be paid upfront.
One source dubbed the offer as "toxic" to The Oregonian, but the Blazers did not build in the maximum raises nor extend the contract to a fifth year, as they could have under NBA rules, thus making it easier for the Jazz to match.
In the end, Portland fell short in its pursuit of a second free agent after Hedo Turkoglu while the Jazz retained one of their young cornerstones in Millsap, the former second-round draft pick from Karl Malone's alma mater who blossomed in his third season.
Millsap finished fourth in voting for Most Improved Player last season, averaging 16.0 points and 10.3 rebounds in 38 starts. That included a streak of 19 consecutive double-doubles after Boozer was lost to a knee injury.
Keeping Millsap, however, will come at no small cost to the Jazz, who can expect to pay nearly $19.6 million between the signing bonus ($5.6 million), first-year salary ($6.3 million) and luxury-tax penalties ($7.7 million) this season.
The flip side is that some in the Jazz organization believe Millsap will be a below-market value at an average salary of $6.7 million the final three years of the contract. Millsap made an NBA-minimum $797,581 last season.
After matching the offer to Millsap, the Jazz have more than $82 million committed to 13 players this season and face the prospect of paying more than $12 million in dollar-for-dollar luxury-tax penalties.
The Jazz are expected to continue exploring trade possibilities involving Boozer, who said in a Tuesday radio interview that he had been told the team was going in a "different direction" and expected to be traded "relatively soon."
O'Connor has been described as taking a "deliberate" approach to the process. Despite their payroll, the Jazz are believed to be interested in acquiring at least one rotation player in a potential Boozer trade rather than simply dumping salary.
Chicago and Miami are believed to be the Boozer front-runners, with Detroit's interest having waned somewhat in recent days. The Bulls offer the more intriguing player possibilities (Kirk Hinrich, Tyrus Thomas) while Miami could offer more payroll relief.
Boozer is believed to be open to signing an extension - - which could start in the neighborhood of $13 million a year - - with the Heat or Bulls. He spoke glowingly of coming to Chicago in Tuesday's interview and makes his off-season home in Miami.
According to Yahoo.com, the Heat are working to acquire Boozer while also signing Lamar Odom, with contract talks between Odom and the L.A. Lakers having broken down. The report cited a three-way proposal between the Jazz, Heat and Memphis Grizzlies.
The proposed deal for Boozer would send Udonis Haslem ($7.1 million) and Dorell Wright ($2.9 million) to Utah, with the Jazz then shipping Wright to Memphis, which is under the salary cap and could absorb the contract.
The Heat also have a $4.3 million trade exception they could use as a potential salary-saver in a deal. Haslem, meanwhile, averaged 10.6 points and 8.2 rebounds in 75 games last season with Miami.