Utah Jazz: Paul Millsap, Andrei Kirilenko rumors abound
SALT LAKE CITY — The NBA's new collective bargaining agreement still needs to be finalized and ratified, and the free-agency period is a week-and-a-half away.
Despite the fact the lockout is not officially over, rumors and reports of player movement are starting to run rampant — from Andrei Kirilenko's motherland of Russia to America's heartland of hoops in Indiana.
Two Utah Jazz mainstays are among those receiving the biggest buzz.
Paul Millsap's name has surfaced in trade talks, and the health and future destination of Kirilenko, an unrestricted free agent, also bubbled up in conversation.
As for Millsap, the Indianapolis Star reported that the power-forward-hungry Pacers are expected to rekindle a pre-draft discussion with the Jazz about possibly making a deal for the hard-working Louisiana Tech product.
The Star referred to Millsap as "a Pacer killer," and the 26-year-old's camp expects an All-Star season out of him after he used the extra-long offseason to fine-tune his physical shape, interior skills and outside touch.
The reliable Millsap is coming off of the best of his five seasons in Utah, having averaged 17.3 points with 7.6 rebounds per game. The steal-of-a-second-round pick has played in 398 of a possible 410 games for the Jazz.
"The Pacers can make this deal happen," the Star reported, "because they'll have salary cap space and they won't hesitate to give up a draft pick to get a player that will help solve their power forward problems."
ESPN basketball writer John Hollinger confirmed on Twitter that he is "also hearing Millsap is available."
It's uncertain whom the Jazz might pick up in a speculated swap with Indiana if it were to happen.
Because of the NBA's lockout gag order, Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor is unable to comment about players.
It's worth noting that former Portland general manager Kevin Pritchard was hired as the Pacers' GM in July.
If that name sounds familiar to Jazz fans, it should. He tried to entice Millsap to Portland with the infamous "toxic" contract two summers ago when the Jazz matched the Trail Blazers' offer for the then-restricted free agent. With the $10 million upfront payment in the past, Millsap's $14 million salary over the next two seasons seems like a bargain.
Meanwhile overseas, European sports website SportandoBasket.com claimed Kirilenko is hoping to land an NBA deal in Utah, with New Jersey and its Russian owner, or in Los Angeles.
But agent Marc Fleisher disputed that. He isn't sure where that rumor came from, either.
"No one asked us," Fleisher said. "I think it's just somebody's speculation.."
While Kirilenko might be amenable to playing in those NBA spots — or others — his agent said the 30-year-old hasn't made up his mind whether he'll continue to play in Russia or return to the U.S. He spent his first 10 NBA seasons with the Jazz, showing flashes of brilliant versatility while occasionally struggling with consistency and injuries.
"He's a player with CSKA Moscow until he's not," Fleisher said. "We'll consider offers from NBA teams. He'll weigh them versus staying with CSKA, where he's obviously done quite well."
Fleisher also disputed a report about Kirilenko's health.
The Euroleague's reigning player of the month fell hard to the court during a game over a week ago, and ended up busting his nose and bruising his shoulder.
Fleisher said Kirilenko's team medical staff is telling him he should be able to play again in 7-10 days, which incidentally falls right before NBA free agency and camps are expected to open on Dec. 9.
Fleisher's update contradicts a report that claimed Kirilenko needed shoulder surgery and that he would be out of action until January.
"I communicated with him 15 times today and he never once said anything about his shoulder," Fleisher said Monday. When the agent called again to ask about the rumored surgery, Kirilenko told him, "'Oh, I have a bruise on my shoulder and it's no big deal.' "
Added Fleisher: "If this was the playoffs, he'd probably be playing right now."
Kirilenko would have to wear a mask to protect his broken nose, though.
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