Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Updated: December 20, 7:10 PM ET
Boozer's plans good for Millsap
By Chris Sheridan
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It is time to stop guessing whether Carlos Boozer will opt out of the final season of his contract with the Utah Jazz.
For the first time, Boozer said unequivocally Wednesday night that he will indeed opt out of his contract at the end of the season, forgoing a guaranteed $12.66 million to become an unrestricted free agent.
"I'm opting out. No matter what, I'm going to get a raise regardless," Boozer told ESPN.com. "I am going to opt out, I don't see why I wouldn't, I think it's a very good business decision for me and my family, but I'd also like to see what happens with the Jazz and stay here."
Boozer's statement can only come as welcome news to teammate Paul Millsap, who posted his 13th consecutive double-double in place of Boozer on Wednesday night as Utah came back from an early 22-point deficit to defeat the New Jersey Nets 103-92.
Millsap was the catalyst in a huge fourth-quarter surge for the Jazz as they outscored the Nets 40-23 in the period, with Millsap contributing half of his 18 points and half of his 12 rebounds over the final 12 minutes.
With Boozer sidelined the past 15 games by a knee injury (he sounded as though he had a setback Wednesday, experiencing pain after a workout, and planned to have an MRI Thursday) Millsap has unquestionably established himself as the NBA player providing the most bang for the buck.
In a locker room where Andrei Kirilenko is making $15.1 million, Boozer $11.6, Mehmet Okur $8.5 million and Deron Williams $5.07 million -- with a max extension kicking in next season -- Millsap is the lowest-paid player on the team with a salary of $797,581, a result of his signing a three-year deal when he was a rookie, with the third year at the team's option.
Millsap will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, with Utah holding the rights to match any offer. But a big question mark is whether there will be any money to pay Millsap and still keep the Jazz beneath the luxury-tax threshold, which owner Larry Miller has vowed publicly he will never exceed.
Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor told ESPN.com that Miller hasn't been quite so absolute regarding the luxury tax in internal conversations, but the issue could become moot if the Jazz allow Boozer to leave as a free agent, which would allow them to pay Millsap something resembling his fair market value.
Possibly complicating matters to a certain degree is the fact that Millsap reiterated his commitment to being represented by his uncle, Brendrick Simmons, who received a briefing from players' union officials Wednesday on the different scenarios Millsap may face this summer.
Paramount among the concerns of Millsap's camp is whether any team with significant cap space will be willing to tender an offer sheet to Millsap, with the expectation around the league being that Utah will match anything that is not egregiously unreasonable -- especially if the Jazz are far enough under the tax threshold to pay Millsap his fair market value.
Some would argue that Millsap is a $5-6 million player, while others would argue that any player brawnish and brutish enough to accumulate such an impressive streak of double-figure statistical totals is probably worth closer to $10 million annually than $5 million.
Utah will have even more flexibility with Millsap and others if Okur exercises an early termination contract and walks away from the final season of his contract, forsaking $9 million, although Okur and his agent both told ESPN.com that they will wait until the end of the season to assess the NBA landscape and see how many teams have significant cap space to make a play for a player of Okur's caliber. Currently, Atlanta, Memphis, Portland, Miami, Detroit and Oklahoma City are among the teams positioned to have the most cap flexibility.
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan has been uncharacteristically effusive in his praise for Millsap during Boozer's absence, and O'Connor told ESPN.com on Wednesday: "We intend to keep Paul Millsap. I don't know how much more succinct I can be."
Upon hearing that remark, Millsap replied: "Bit of a relief, knowing your team wants you. I would love to be here, great system, playing with one of the best point guards in the league, it can't get no better."
When he hears of Boozer's plans to opt out, it may get even better. That'll mean the money will be there to pay Millsap and keep Miller under the luxury tax, although it would come at the cost of letting Boozer -- their leading scorer and rebounder -- walk away with Utah getting nothing in return.
Nothing, that is, except for the chance to have the financial flexibility to lock up a rebounding machine who has shown over the past 13 games -- especially in Boston on Monday night when Millsap scored 32 points as Kevin Garnett, according to one Jazz player, kept calling over to teammate Kendrick Perkins: "You take him, Perk."
But if what Boozer was saying Wednesday night comes to fruition, or if the Jazz can find a taker for Kirilenko in a trade -- there's going to be nobody taking Millsap. The Jazz will keep him.
ESPN.com NBA Insider Chris Sheridan has been covering the NBA for 10 years.