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Utah Jazz trade Mehmet Okur to New Jersey for trade exception, future 2nd-round pick

Okur traded to nets in business move for a 2015 second-round pick, trade exception

Published: Thursday, Dec. 22 2011 5:39 p.m. MST

Utah Jazz center Mehmet Okur (13) in photographed during media day at the Zions Bank basketball center in Salt Lake City Friday, Dec. 9, 2011.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Greg Miller made a tough phone call Thursday — one that was part business, part personal.

Considering the importance of the news he had to break and the sincerity of an accompanying message he hoped to relay, the Jazz CEO wanted to make it himself.

Mehmet Okur was on the answering end of the call.

The business part: The seven-year Jazz center was dealt to the New Jersey Nets in exchange for a valuable trade exception — the key to the deal for Utah — and the team's 2015 second-round draft pick.

The personal part: Miller thanked Okur — fondly called "Memo" and / or "Money" in these parts — for his dedicated play and effort and because he'd "given everything he had" to the Jazz since 2004.

Miller expressed gratitude that Okur, who worked hard to rehab his injured back and surgically repaired Achilles tendon to 100 percent strength, "played hurt when a lot of guys would not have."

Miller also told Okur that the Jazz "appreciate everything he did." They hope he remembers how important he was to the success of the franchise family.

On a personal level, this was a hard call — figuratively and literally — for the Jazz to make. And it happened rapidly after the Nets learned that their talented starting center, Brook Lopez, had been sidelined with a surgery-requiring broken foot.

Receiving the $10.8 million trade exception was the clincher for the Jazz, who have a calendar year to enhance their roster in a significant way with it.

"The biggest reason (to trade Okur) is we were able to gain what we consider a valuable asset in the trade exception," Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said. "We wouldn't have made a deal unless we got something that's an asset back."

Especially because it involved a beloved player like Memo, who's exuded positivity in Utah for so long.

Okur has been a fan-favorite in Utah for years because of his long-distance sharpshooting skills and his affable personality that was expressed through charming broken English and friendly facial features.

Because of the timing, and considering Okur has to uproot his family, O'Connor called the business move "a lousy thing."

"There's a human part to this that doesn't feel very good," O'Connor admitted. "But from a business point of view (trading to improve your team) is what you do during the season and offseason. You've got to look at it from what's best for the Jazz."

From that aspect, it does make plenty of sense for this franchise in flux.

Okur was signed to a two-year contract extension in 2009, when he was a productive starter in Utah. But months after his injury in the first game of the 2010 playoffs, Utah signed a new and pricey starting center replacement in Al Jefferson.

By no fault of his own, the Jazz weren't sure what they were going to get from Memo this season after he only played in 13 games because of injuries in 2010-11.

On top of that, Okur's contract was considered a hefty one for a reserve player.

Okur did not want to be traded, according to his agent, Marc Fleisher.

Utah's big man depth made the trade possible without acquiring a current player.

Even with the trade of the popular former All-Star (2007), Utah still has a combination of four proven and promising post players in Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. The athletic Jeremy Evans also can play the four spot, so the Jazz remain deep with their bigs.

The Jazz have received a lot of calls and offers from other teams interested in wheeling and dealing for Utah's posts, O'Connor said.

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