O'Connor denies Boozer trade talk

Published: Monday, Oct. 23 2006 9:09 a.m. MDT

PORTLAND, Ore. — Jazz basketball operations senior vice president Kevin O'Connor on Sunday declined specific comment on a Boston-based report revealing details of the Celtics' recent interest in Utah big man Carlos Boozer.

O'Connor did, however, attempt to dispel the notion the Jazz are trying to deal Boozer, whose name has been the subject of frequent swap speculation since shortly after his 2004 arrival in Utah.

"We are not actively engaged in discussing a trade for Carlos Boozer," said O'Connor, who was with the team in Portland to watch it prepare for tonight's preseason game against the Trail Blazers.

According to Sunday's Boston Herald, which cited an unidentified "league source," the Celtics "were involved in lengthy talks with Utah about ... Boozer, before discussions cooled off in late July." The Herald also reported that "the price would have been Al Jefferson, with Theo Ratliff's $11.7 million annual salary a match for Boozer's almost identical number."

The report does appear credible, as it's believed the Jazz indeed have been curious about 6-foot-10 power forward Jefferson, an '04 first-round draft choice who jumped straight to the NBA from his Mississippi high school. But it's also thought they also were reluctant to take on veteran shot-blocker Ratliff, whose current contract expires after the 2007-08 season — two years before Boozer's runs out.

Boozer's six-year, $68 million deal — which the Herald says is "considered one of the worst cases of overpaying an athlete in recent memory" — pays through the 2009-2010 season, including $11,593,816 this season.

The Herald's report comes about a week after Jazz coach Jerry Sloan blasted Boozer for his poor preseason defense, which spurred speculation — including one-liners in both the Chicago Tribune and the Philadelphia Inquirer — that Boozer trade rumors would soon follow.

But it's not the first time the Jazz and Celtics have been publicly linked in talks involving Boozer and Jefferson.

It also happened this past offseason — though back then it was in the context of other larger supposedly proposed deals, including one that reportedly would have sent Boozer to Philadelphia, brought Jefferson and Celtics swingman Wally Szczerbiak to Utah, and shipped 76ers point guard Allen Iverson to Boston.

That was one among numerous summer rumors involving Boozer and about a half-dozen different teams, none of which ever materialized.

Now, though, it appears the Jazz are prepared to move forward with Boozer, who is averaging a team-high 14.2 points and team-leading 8.2 rebounds through five exhibition games. He — along with Mehmet Okur and Andrei Kirilenko — is one of their front-line centerpieces for the 2006-07 season.

"We listen to try to make our team better, and it involves all our players," O'Connor said Sunday. "But we're not looking to actively pursue a trade."


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E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

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