Summer of Boozer kicks off for Utah Jazz — again
NBA free agency officially begins
Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — When the NBA's offseason free-agency negotiating period opens at 10 tonight, the Jazz are bound to be consumed largely by all things Carlos Boozer.
But it's not their only issue of concern heading into a summer of uncertainty.
Because even though Boozer holds all the cards as an unrestricted free agent, it's the Jazz who mostly control the immediate futures of Wesley Matthews and Kyrylo Fesenko.
And history shows that if the Jazz don't want either to go anywhere else, they will not.
They were burned in 2004 by not matching when guard Mo Williams, who went on to become an NBA All-Star nearly five years later, signed with Milwaukee.
Since then, however, the Jazz have sent something of a message to other NBA teams: Don't mess with our restricted free agents.
They matched when swingman C.J. Miles signed an offer sheet with Oklahoma City in 2008, and last offseason they matched even after Portland front-loaded its four-year, $32 million offer to power forward Paul Millsap with a $5.6 million signing bonus.
So beware, general manager Kevin O'Connor seemed to suggest when the Jazz's most recent season ended, to any team thinking about making a run at undrafted rookie starting shooting guard Matthews.
"We've responded to restrictions before," O'Connor said, "whether it was with C.J. or it was with Paul."
Matthews will be a restricted free agent when the NBA's summer free-agency negotiating period opens tonight, as will backup center Fesenko, whom the Jazz evidently intend to re-sign.
Indications are that those two will have to wait to learn their fate, however, while the Boozer situation plays out first.
Though nothing can be formally be signed until the negotiating period closes at 10 p.m. next Wednesday, the two-time NBA All-Star is free to agree to a deal as of late tonight.
So is backup shooting guard Kyle Korver, who may have to seek a new contract elsewhere after Utah selected Butler swingman Gordon Hayward in last Thursday's NBA Draft.
It's tough to tell how long it will take Korver to find a new deal.
The Jazz gave qualifying offers to both Matthews and Fesenko, so it's possible the Jazz won't do anything more with either until learning if Boozer will be staying or going.
And that very much remains a question mark.
When last season ended, the Jazz indicated they wanted Boozer to sign for a seventh season and beyond in Utah.
The questions are at what price and for a contract of what length, with answers now soon to come.
But, in general terms, management indicated they wanted Boozer to return. Head coach Jerry Sloan aggressively advocated for the same. And even point guard Deron Williams, cognizant that it's possible that the Jazz will be losing their leading scorer and rebounder, publicly suggested he hoped for the same.
"He wants me back," Boozer said of Williams.
"He knows we want him back, you know?" Williams said at the time. "But he's in a situation where he has to wait and see what happens and go through negotiations."
Now is the time.
Chicago, Miami, New Jersey and New York all are expected to show varying degrees of interest as they also chase reigning NBA MVP LeBron James and other high-profile free agents.
If Boozer doesn't sign outright with another club and doesn't want to accept Utah's offer, though, it's possible the Jazz could recoup some value via a sign-and-trade deal.
ESPN.com reported Tuesday that the Detroit Pistons, who showed interest in Boozer last offseason, "still have interest," and could take part in a sign-and-trade.
And the official website of the Orlando Magic, OrlandoMagic.com, addressed the question of if Magic star Dwight Howard could lure Boozer to Orlando, even suggesting a scenario that perhaps would have Magic big man Marcin Gortat coming to Utah.
The Orlando Sentinel newspaper reported on its website Tuesday that Gortat had said "the Magic told him after the season that they would not 'hesitate' to add him in a trade to acquire a star player."
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