Friday, July 10, 2009
Sources: Boozer at heart of 3-team talks
By Marc Stein and Chad Ford
Another major multiteam trade might be looming in the NBA with the Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls having discussed a deal that would be headlined by Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich, according to NBA front-office sources.
Sources stressed to ESPN.com on Thursday that no deal was imminent, but two sources with knowledge of the three-team proposal confirmed that there have been detailed talks aimed at landing Boozer in Chicago, Hinrich in Portland and Tyrus Thomas in Utah.
These trade discussions, sources said, are the byproduct of a hard push by the Jazz to move Boozer in an attempt to create the financial flexibility needed to comfortably re-sign restricted free agent Paul Millsap, along with Portland's ongoing attempts to cash in on its nearly $8 million in available salary-cap space after Hedo Turkoglu made an 11th-hour switch to sign with the Toronto Raptors.
Sources say that, as a result, Utah and Portland continue to explore trade scenarios with other teams.
One source close to the process on Friday identified two main obstacles to the aforementioned three-way deal. Concerned about the quality of its backcourt rotation if it has to surrender Hinrich with Thomas after losing Ben Gordon in free agency, Chicago would insist that the Blazers surrender young guard Jerryd Bayless, which Portland is reluctant to do.
If it can't get Bayless, Chicago might still be willing to substitute Tim Thomas for Tyrus Thomas in the deal, but sources say Utah would likely balk if Tyrus Thomas is not included.
For a time Wednesday, sources say Chicago was committed to participate in the four-team deal that ultimately sent Shawn Marion to Dallas, with Tim Thomas also headed for the Mavericks. One source with knowledge of the discussions said that the Bulls pulled Thomas out of that deal Wednesday night to plug him into another trade.
The Detroit Pistons, meanwhile, continue to be widely mentioned as a trade suitor for Boozer, but sources with knowledge of Detroit's thinking insisted again Friday that the Pistons will not join the trade bidding for the Team USA power forward because they think Tayshaun Prince and newly signed Charlie Villanueva will complement each other better than Boozer and Villanueva would.
When asked about the trade talks with the Blazers and Bulls, Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor declined comment in Friday's editions of the Salt Lake Tribune.
Bulls general manager Gar Forman did not offer specifics but told the Chicago Sun-Times: ''There are always conversations going on, and we'll continue to talk to teams to see if we can make ourselves better."
A deal headlined by Boozer and Hinrich would deliver the elite low-post scorer that the Bulls have been chasing for years while also positioning them to have significant salary-cap space for the summer of 2010 to court Chicago native Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh in free agency, thanks to Boozer's $12.7 million expiring contract.
Hinrich, meanwhile, is a lead guard that Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard has been known to covet for some time as a potential backcourt mate for Brandon Roy.
Other Blazers mentioned for possible inclusion in a Boozer deal include Travis Outlaw, Steve Blake and Martell Webster.
Even if a Boozer-to-Chicago concept goes no further, it is becoming increasingly evident that Utah is prepared to move Boozer immediately to ensure that it can re-sign Millsap.
Pritchard acknowledged Friday afternoon in a session with local reporters that he is also weighing whether to extend an offer sheet to Millsap, but he offered no timetable when asked how soon the Blazers will make their first splash of the offseason with that cap space.
"We're looking at all our options," Pritchard said. "We're excited about all the possibilities and maybe they happen tomorrow, maybe they happen in two months, maybe they happen at the trade deadline."
As for Millsap specifically, Pritchard said: "I wouldn't just say that we're just looking at him. We are talking with him. That I can verify. But he's not the only person we're talking to."
Pritchard also addressed a report in Thursday's Oregonian newspaper that talks negotiations on contract extensions for franchise cornerstones Roy and forward LaMarcus Aldridge have stalled.
"It's amicable," he said. "We plan to make it amicable. More importantly, Brandon and LaMarcus will be here for a long time."
After injuries restricted him to just 37 games last season, Boozer declined the option in his contract to become an unrestricted free agent July 1. It's believed that the Jazz are determined to keep Millsap but are concerned about the luxury-tax consequences of signing him to a long-term deal.
Marc Stein and Chad Ford are senior NBA writers for ESPN.com.