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Utah Jazz: Trade of Mehmet Okur surprises Tyrone Corbin, players

Published: Friday, Dec. 23 2011 11:45 p.m. MST

Once the initial shock wears off, Okur might think back and fondly remember how the Jazz took a risk by signing the 6-11 center out of Detroit to a six-year, $50 million deal back in 2004. Utah then gave the 2002 second-round pick a $21 million two-year extension in 2009.

Memo's Achilles tendon injury in April 2010 forced the Jazz to search elsewhere for a center, and the team ended up with Jefferson and the final three years of his contract worth $42 million.

Okur returned to camp this year 100 percent healthy and has received high praise from the Jazz for his form.

But the reality is that Okur had become the fourth big man option in Utah behind Big Al, Millsap and potential-packed 20-year-old Derrick Favors, who's shown his ability to play both post positions at a high level during camp and preseason.

Fact of the matter, $10.8 million is an awfully steep salary for the Jazz to pay for a 32-year-old backup big man.

It was hard to swallow for everybody in the Jazz organization — and for many fans — but receiving an equally valued trade exception and a future pick from the desperate Nets was too good of a deal for Utah's front office to pass up.

New Jersey needed someone to fill in for injured Brook Lopez. The Jazz needed something of great value for Okur.

The move will free up minutes for Favors, Kanter and even Jeremy Evans, who gives the Jazz the bounciest power forward option in the NBA.

On one hand, Utah will be quicker, more athletic and younger in the middle because of the move. Then again, the Jazz will lose a defense-stretching long-distance shooter with improved interior moves.

Regardless, losing Mr. Congeniality — who happens to be married to a former Miss Turkey — is a heartbreaker on a personal level.

"He's a really good guy in the locker room, on the floor, great to play with, so it's tough to see him go," said Miles, Okur's teammate since 2005. "But you understand it's a business and that's the way it goes sometimes."

Even if it hurts hearts a bit.

"Memo was a good guy, a good vet, been a round a long time," Jefferson said. "I was learning stuff from him every day. I (was always) picking his brain. He will be missed here."

Millsap appreciated that his teammate for the past five seasons was a "humble" man.

"It's tough to lose a guy like that," he said.

Even tougher when he's one of so many friends and teammates who've come and gone over the past several seasons.

Veteran guard Raja Bell goes back further with the Jazz, having played in Utah from 2003-05. But Millsap and Miles are now the only ones who were on the team as recently as the 2009-10 season.

"We're the last ones standing," Millsap said. "It happens. It's the nature of the business. We've got to move on and continue to try to progress."

Where are they now?

Only two players from the Utah Jazz's 2007 Western Conference Finals squad remain on the team. The rest are scattered from Los Angeles to Croatia.

Paul Millsap: Utah Jazz

C.J. Miles: Utah Jazz

Matt Harpring: Utah (broadcaster)

Carlos Boozer: Chicago

Ronnie Brewer: Chicago

Mehmet Okur: New Jersey

Deron Williams: New Jersey

Derek Fisher: Los Angeles Lakers

Gordan Giricek: Croatia

Andrei Kirilenko: Russia

Jarron Collins: Recently in China

Dee Brown: Italy

Rafael Araujo: Brazil

email: jody@desnews.com

twitter: DJJazzyJody

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