MAITLAND, Fla. — The Jazz completed their Carlos Boozer business Thursday, reaching a sign-and-trade agreement with the Chicago Bulls that nets Utah a valuable traded player exception.
Now Boozerless, where in the world do they go from here?
It's a question weighing heavily on Jazz minds, especially that belonging to Kevin O'Connor.
"It's free agency," the Jazz general manager said, "and we have to bang around and see what we can come up with that."
O'Connor was actively seeking possibilities Thursday, one day after free agent power forward Boozer agreed to a five-year deal now believed to be worth closer to $75 million than the $80 million ESPN originally reported.
But one suspected by some, David Lee, can be scratched because he reportedly agreed to go from New York to Golden State via a sign-and-trade.
Ditto for another, ex-Minnesota Timberwolves forward Ryan Gomes, who Thursday agreed Thursday to a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Who's that leave?
Namely Paul Millsap, for starters.
"Paul has waited, and waited patiently. And good things come to those who wait," said DeAngelo Millsap, Millsap's agent and uncle. "He was his backup for three years, and he learned a lot of from Boozer, and now he has a chance to pave his own way right now."
Millsap was home watching a summer-league game on TV when he heard the Boozer news.
"My initial response was I was happy for Booz, and glad to see him collect the money. I'm happy for him and his family," Millsap said. "And then it was, 'It's about time.'
"It was kind of a sigh of relief, knowing I get a chance to do what I want to do, and that's start," he added. "I'm ready to take my game to another level."
The Jazz also undoubtedly will consider playing small forward Andrei Kirilenko more at power forward.
"You know," O'Connor said, "Andrei made the All-Star team (in 2004) playing 4 at lot of time."
Perhaps signing recent Phoenix Suns and ex-Jazz forward Louis Amundson as a reasonable-cost alternative is an option, too.
Or maybe, just maybe, a bigger name than Amundson — Al Harrington, if he doesn't go from New York to Orlando, anyone? — could come via the traded player exception.
The Jazz sent a protected future second-round draft choice to Chicago, giving Utah another TPE to go along with those acquired when Matt Harpring was dealt in December to Oklahoma City (worth $6.5 million) and Ronnie Brewer was traded in February to Memphis ($2.7 million).
They would have preferred a player — perhaps Taj Gibson, now Boozer's backup in Chicago — in return.
Instead, they got their latest TPE.
It allows the Jazz to acquire one or more players via trade with any other team any time over the next year, even if their acquisition leaves Utah over the NBA's team payroll salary cap of $58.044 million — as long as their salary or combined salaries don't exceed the total of the amount of money Boozer will make in his first year with the Bulls, plus $100,000.
That first-salary figure for Boozer is expected to be about $13 million.
The Jazz technically signed Boozer, then traded him and the pick for the exception.
"I feel we have the talent here to begin competing for a title," Boozer said in a statement released by the Bulls, "and I cannot wait to get started.
"I'm going to continue to get better and better every year," he added in an interview Thursday with Chicago radio station WMVP-AM 1000, "and I'm looking forward to bringing everything that I bring to the Chicago Bulls and making us a winner. I want a championship."
It wasn't immediately known what the protection is on the second-round draft choice that went from Utah to Chicago.
But it is clear that two-time NBA All-Star Boozer won't have any more money or an extra year added to his original agreement with Chicago, which signing with his former team first would have allowed.
The Bulls, in other words, essentially gave Utah a gift — the TPE.
"I appreciate the cooperation of (Bulls basketball boss) John Paxson and the fact (Boozer) was willing to sign participate in the sign-and-trade, because neither of them had to," O'Connor said at the Orlando Pro Summer League here.
"It gives us an opportunity to investigate other rosters and see if there's a player that maybe teams with luxury-tax issues or teams looking to go in a another direction (would trade). We'll try and be aggressive with it."
O'Connor on Wednesday said the Jazz would seek someone to back up Millsap, who is entering his second year on a four-season, $32 million contract.
"We'll look for a player that can help us win games," he said, "and it doesn't have to be somebody that scores 20 points."
O'Connor reiterated that, in part, Thursday.
"Paul's proven he's a starter," the Jazz GM said with reference to someone who recorded 19 straight double-doubles when Boozer was out in 2008-09 with a knee injury.
Now armed with the much-larger TPE, however, the Jazz also have a tool to pursue a much higher-priced player via trade that they didn't possess Wednesday. Remaining competitive next season, O'Connor suggested, is more important than preserving cap space for next offseason, when Kirilenko's $17.8 million salary comes off the books.103 comments on this story
"We would like to be able to secure some size," O'Connor said.
Contributing: Jody Genessy