Utah Jazz: Brewer traded to Memphis
With one deal agreed to five minutes before the NBA's 1 p.m. MDT trade deadline Thursday, the Jazz found a way to ease their crush of wing players as well as their luxury-tax burden by sending Ronnie Brewer to Memphis for a future first-round draft pick.
Brewer was the Jazz's 2006 first-round pick and a full-time starter for the past three seasons, but his departure will free playing time for C.J. Miles, Kyle Korver and Wesley Matthews while trimming the Jazz's remaining luxury-tax bill in half.
"We had three or four players that were competing for minutes and we were able to turn that into a future asset," Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said.
Brewer was on board the Jazz's plane waiting to take off from New Orleans for Oakland, Calif., when O'Connor called with news of the trade. It took 20 minutes to retrieve his bags and he ended up instead on a Delta flight bound for Memphis.
"As a basketball player, you know it's a part of the business," Brewer said. "Especially when it's time for the trade deadline, you know that names are going to be thrown out there and it's all rumors until something's happened."
"It finally happened," Brewer added. "I enjoyed the time I had with Utah. I think coach [Jerry] Sloan has developed my game and made me grow up as a basketball player and as a man. I enjoyed my teammates. But I've got to move on."
How Brewer's trade will affect a Jazz team that has won 15 of its last 17 games and climbed to third in the Western Conference remains to be seen. Brewer was especially close to Deron Williams, Paul Millsap, Carlos Boozer and Miles.
"I think we had a close-knit group," Brewer said. "When you come in with a guy like Paul Millsap and you go through all the ups and downs and you feel like you build a bond with those guys.
"Being with Booz, the stuff that he's been through, and being by his side and being a friend. Same thing with D-Will and C.J. I think as a team we matured together and we became close. I think everybody's career has developed a little bit more being around each other."
The Jazz and Grizzlies first were linked in trade talk involving Brewer last month. Memphis had the salary-cap space to absorb Brewer's $2.7 million salary in a deal without having to send the Jazz a player in return.
Their differences came in respect to what draft pick the Jazz would receive in return. The Grizzlies offered 2010 picks they were owed from the Lakers and Denver, all but certain to come at the end of the first round.
With Thursday's deal, the Jazz will acquire the Grizzlies' protected first-round pick in 2011. Brewer was the No. 14 pick in 2006 and O'Connor described it as "a future asset that we thought commensurate with Ronnie's abilities."
The Jazz, meanwhile, will finish the season with Boozer, despite a reported last-hour push by Miami to acquire the former All-Star, and have committed themselves to paying the NBA's dollar-for-dollar luxury tax for the first time in franchise history.
Brewer, who will go from starting to playing behind Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo, is expected to bolster the Grizzlies' bench. The Fayetteville, Ark., product also will enjoy a homecoming of sorts in Memphis with an up-and-coming team.
"It's right across the bridge," Brewer said. "We have West Memphis, Ark., even. It's going to be cool to see how the people accept me. Hopefully, they'll be able to welcome me with open arms."
The Jazz are expected to elevate Miles, Korver or Matthews to the starting lineup beginning tonight at Golden State. They also will have to sign a player within two weeks to meet the NBA's roster minimum of 13.
For all the progress he has made since coming to the Jazz, Brewer's numbers had declined this season. He was averaging 9.5 points, down from 13.7 points last season, and described his play as "up and down."
The Jazz and Brewer also were unable to come to agreement on a contract extension before the season. With Thursday's trade, the team will avoid having to go through restricted free agency with Brewer this summer.
The past two summers, the Jazz had to match offer sheets to keep Miles and Millsap. They would have had to tender Brewer a $3.8 million qualifying offer just to keep his rights as a restricted free agent.
"I knew and my agent knew that the numbers game was going to come into [play]," Brewer said, "especially with the contracts we have this year and with the contracts already on board for next year. Hopefully, it will work out for the best for everybody."
Asked about giving up a player in Brewer who has won praise from Sloan for his growth, O'Connor said: "I think it had to do more with what everyone has developed. They've kind of all developed equally."
The emergence of Matthews, an undrafted rookie from Marquette playing for the league-minimum $457,588, likely made it easier to part with Brewer. The Jazz will have to make decisions this summer about re-signing both Matthews and Korver as free agents.
After trading rookie Eric Maynor in December to Oklahoma City in a luxury-tax saving move, the Jazz now have just two players -- Williams and Kosta Koufos -- to show for their 12 first-round draft picks from the 2000s.
The Jazz went into Thursday approximately $5.1 million above the NBA's tax threshold of $69.92 million. After the trade, they have $72.3 million in full-season salary commitments and will face a tax bill of $2.3 million before signing a player to replace Brewer.
"We could have done things to get ourselves in a position to do that," O'Connor said of getting under the tax, "but it would have been really a bad basketball move. This, I think, subtracts a little bit from the team but it gives other guys opportunities for more minutes."
Brewer was part of the Jazz team that advanced to the Western Conference finals in 2007 and reached the playoffs in each of his three seasons in Utah. He worked to improve his shooting as well as getting bigger and stronger in every summer.
"I feel like I've developed and was making strides of being a better player," Brewer said, adding, "I'm still a young guy and I still think I've got a lot of potential in me."