Utah Jazz: Is Paul Millsap ready for his potential new role?

Published: Saturday, May 15 2010 12:22 a.m. MDT

Utah Jazz's Paul Millsap

August Miller, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Jerry Sloan is one, because he seems to think keeping Carlos Boozer is the best way to ensure that the Jazz continue their winning ways.

Deron Williams is another, based, if nothing else, on how many assists he delivers to him.

But the person perhaps most impacted by Boozer's pending free agency may be Paul Millsap, Utah's primary backup power forward the past four seasons and the man who stands to start should Boozer bolt.

"Who knows?" Millsap said when asked earlier this week, the morning after the Jazz were eliminated from the NBA playoffs by the Los Angeles Lakers for a third straight postseason, if he expects the franchise will make significant changes this offseason.

"It's not my decision, not my job to decide that," he added. "It's my job to ... continue to try to grow as a basketball player."

Millsap, though, has been doing just that — and more — ever since the Jazz selected him out of Louisiana Tech in the second round of 2006 NBA Draft.

And if Boozer, an unrestricted free agent as of 10 p.m. on June 30, should decide to stay in Utah for a seventh season or more, it remains to be seen just how much longer Millsap will silently stomach a backup role that some might argue stunts that very growth.

To date, he's been nothing but loyal and quiet.

But when asked the morning after the Laker loss if he'd request an opportunity to play somewhere else if Boozer returned — ask for a trade, to phrase it more bluntly — Millsap didn't shut the door on the possibility.

"I don't know what I would do," he said. "I would have to wait and see."

DeAngelo Simmons — Millsap's agent and uncle — doesn't see things coming to that, though. And it's not necessarily because he sees Boozer leaving.

"We haven't even thought that far," he said.

"But ... I think (the Jazz) have been pretty fair with (Millsap) overall as far as playing time, and if the playing time is there, I don't see it really being a problem.

"If Boozer comes back, or if he goes, either which way, it should be fine, based on history," Simmons added. "Trade talk or get-me-out-of-here talk — I don't think that's something that's really even in (Millsap's) head at all."

Millsap obviously yearns to start and make good on the four-year, $32 million contract he landed last offseason.

But, as constituted — Boozer included — he also seems to like the Jazz's current makeup.

Even after their second-round loss to L.A.

"I learned when we come to play, we can be a great team. We've still got a little bit to learn, but we're getting there," he said. "You can tell guys on this team have got a lot of heart. That's gonna take us far.

"With the team we have ... we could have easily made it to the next round," Millsap added when asked if he feels changes are necessary.

"That's how deep and how talented our team is."

With Boozer gone, though, that depth takes a hit — and that's just one of many concerns Sloan has about losing his top scorer and rebounder.

If Millsap must replace Boozer, the Jazz coach asks, "Who's gonna replace Paul Millsap? A guy that maybe has no experience?" Sloan said. "That's the problem."

Actually one, as Sloan sees it, of many.

Sloan truly does not waver on the issue.

"I can't say there wouldn't be a dropoff," the Jazz coach said when asked, then pressed further, if he thought there would be one should Boozer depart. Others, however, deliver what seem to be mixed signals.

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