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Utah Jazz: Making sense of 'trade exception'

Published: Friday, Dec. 23 2011 4:34 p.m. MST

Utah Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor talks with the media in Salt Lake City Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Kevin O'Connor came up with a Christmastime analogy to clear up confusion many people in Jazzland are experiencing.

But, sorry, the true ingredients in fruitcake were not the clarification revelation.

The Jazz general manager did, however, explain in layman's terms what a trade exception is and what the franchise can do with the one it received along with a 2015 second-round pick in exchange for center Mehmet Okur.

"The easiest way to describe it, since it's the Christmas season," O'Connor said, "(is) we were given a gift certificate for Memo's salary to spend."

The Jazz have until Dec. 22, 2012, to decide how to use that $10.8 million gift card.

The benefit is that Utah can trade for a player (or players) up to that amount without shipping off any of their own guys.

Also important is that trade exceptions (all exceptions really) help teams accrue players once they're above the salary cap, which currently is $58 million.

"That's a nice chip to have in your pocket," O'Connor said. "It's an asset."

The Jazz used a similar asset they bartered to receive in last year's Carlos Boozer sign-and-trade with Chicago. Utah cashed in that gift certificate in Minnesota, picking up Al Jefferson — coincidentally because of Okur's Achilles injury. Without the exception, Utah couldn't have added Big Al's $13 million salary to their payroll last season.

More recently, Dallas used a trade exception to pick up Lamar Odom from the Los Angeles Lakers.

New Jersey was able to give Utah a trade exception because the Nets remained under the salary cap — but just barely — even after absorbing Okur's salary.

O'Connor denied that the Jazz dealt Memo as merely a salary-dump business move.

"To me, it's not purely a business decision, because if it was, we would've done it before now," O'Connor said. "We did get something we wanted back."

Getting rid of a popular player and the timing of the trade weigh heavily on the Jazz, though.

"This was a miserable decision, especially the time of the year," O'Connor said. "He's got to move his family. It's Christmastime."

There was an urgency on New Jersey's part to make this trade now. Nets' center Brook Lopez suffered a surgery-requiring broken foot and is out 6-8 weeks, so they need a replacement.

For financial purposes, Deron Williams' team also needed to acquire Okur before it could sign free-agent shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson.

"In this league obviously everybody can get traded," O'Connor said. "We felt for the long-term health of the Jazz, it would be a good move."

O'Connor likes that the exception gives the Jazz flexibility in adding to their roster, especially because it can be used at the trade deadline, during the summer free-agency period, during the 2012 camp or even 20-some-odd games into next season.

"We'll be aggressive with it," O'Connor said. "The Miller family has said to us that you can use the exception if it's the right decision."

Email: jody@desnews.com, Twitter: DJJazzyJody

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