Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Okur to join Utah's revamped frontcourt
SALT LAKE CITY -- Mehmet Okur was very concise in his
earliest moments as a member of the Utah Jazz.
"Life is good," Okur said with a wide grin after signing a
six-year, $50 million deal to join the Jazz.
The Turkish center signed the deal Tuesday, three days short of
the deadline the Detroit Pistons had to match Utah's offer. But
knowing they wouldn't be able to come up with the money, the
Pistons let Okur go early.
The NBA champion Pistons instead re-signed Rasheed Wallace, who
went to Detroit in a midseason trade that cut into Okur's playing
time. Okur still finished the season averaging 9.6 points and 5.9
"I didn't play much last year. I come over here hungry. I want
to go hard right away. I can't wait to play with them," Okur said.
"I like the system here."
With a spiked hairstyle that could rival new teammate Andrei
Kirilenko's, Okur fielded questions during a news conference
Tuesday afternoon. He's heading back to Turkey to play for his
national team as it tries to qualify for the European
Okur will return to Utah in late September for his first
workouts under coach Jerry Sloan.
"I've heard a lot of good things about him. I hear he's a good
teacher and that's what I'm looking for," Okur said.
The Jazz have an opening at center and hope to fill it with the
6-foot-11 Okur, who's only 25. Greg Ostertag's nine-year career
with Utah ended last week after he saw the Jazz were bringing in
Okur and forward Carlos Boozer. Ostertag signed with the Sacramento
Utah vice president for basketball operations Kevin O'Connor
said Okur had been Utah's top target since the season ended.
"We felt that he would fit a lot of the needs that we had,"
said O'Connor, who called the Pistons to thank them for letting
Okur sign early. "He gave us the ability to score with the
basketball. He gave us toughness. He gave us somebody that can
Next up for the Jazz is signing Carlos Boozer, another
restricted free agent who signed an offer sheet with Utah. The
Cleveland Cavaliers still have until Friday at 12:01 a.m. EDT --
10:01 p.m. Thursday in Utah -- to match the offer, but owner Gordon
Gund said the team has no intention of doing so.
But don't expect the Cavs to do Boozer or the Jazz any favors.
Cleveland management contends that there was a verbal agreement
with Boozer not to sign an offer sheet with another teams, even if
the Cavs didn't pick up the option year on his contract.
Boozer is training with the U.S. Olympic team in Florida this
week. He's expected to make a quick trip Thursday to Utah, where he
will have a physical, sign his contract after the deadline, then
head back to Jacksonville.
The Jazz still want to sign point guard Mo Williams, a
restricted free agent, but have until October to do it. Adding Okur
and Boozer were the priorities in overhauling the lineup.
O'Connor also still faces negotiations with Kirilenko's agent on
signing the All-Star forward to a long-term deal to remain in Utah.
Kirilenko is entering a contract year.
But once Boozer signs, O'Connor will feel some relief.
"Getting the two big ones on board so to speak has been good
for us," he said. "Are we finished? I'd say for right now, we