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Utah Jazz forwards claim Utah is in their plans

Published: Wednesday, April 29 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

On the day they cleaned their paraphernalia and personal items out of the Utah Jazz locker room, both Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap declared they hope to return to play in EnergySolutions Arena next season.

And, yes, they want to do that as Jazz players again.

"I do want to stay here," Boozer said. "I want to be in Utah. I want to play for the Jazz. I made that loud and clear from Day 1."

Ditto for Millsap.

"Of course," the rising standout said when asked about his desire to return to Utah. "I love it here. I love the teammates here, the coaches, especially the fans."

Teammates and team management joined in, saying they want both big men back, too.

Talk, talk, talk. Right now, it's cheap. In the months to come, when negotiations begin heating up, it almost certainly won't be. And for this small-market franchise, that could create quite the contract conundrum.

Can the Jazz keep both? Can they keep either? And, if they have to choose, which one should it be?

First things first.

Boozer has a player option to nix the final year of his contract with Utah and become an unrestricted free agent. That's likely to happen — he admitted not wanting to just return for one year — unless, that is, the Jazz offer him an attractive multi-year, megabucks extension to his liking.

That scenario, he said, is "absolutely" his preference — in part because he still has unresolved resolutions with the Jazz.

"I think we have a really good, talented team that can win a championship," Boozer said. "It's just a matter of us sticking together.

"I came here to win a championship," he added, "and that's what I want to do — and I think we have a team that can accomplish that goal if we're healthy."

According to Boozer, the ball is in the Jazz's court.

Utah general manager Kevin O'Connor said the Jazz have "no comment" on an extension deal and are, for now, waiting to see whether he opts out.

"I'm going to talk to the team," said Boozer, who has until June 30 to make his decision. "I feel like there's a very good chance I'll sign a long-term contract."

Financially, that might be difficult if the Jazz either re-sign Millsap to much more than his sub-$1 million salary this year or if they match a potential free-agent offer sheet that comes his way.

"I'm just going to sit back and see what happens," Millsap said. "Whatever happens to me, I'm going to get in where I'm at and do the best I can."

That was the case this season, especially while Boozer was out with a left knee injury — when he racked up 19 straight double-doubles — and before both of his knees got dinged up.

Millsap ended up having the best season of his three-year career, averaging 13.5 points on 53.4-percent shooting, and 8.6 rebounds.

Boozer, meanwhile, had one of his most difficult seasons. He missed a total of 45 games to injury, including 44 for his surgically repaired left knee, only scored 16.2 points per game while shooting under 50 percent (49.0) for the first time in his career, and grabbed 10.4 boards an outing.

Boozer's play improved dramatically in the first four playoff games, when he admitted it felt like he "had a fresh start" and a healthy body.

Their coach is hoping to deal with the problem of divvying up minutes between them again next season.

Sloan wants to see Boozer "in a Jazz uniform, I always have," he said. "We want to see the players here that can help us win — and Boozer can help us win. He's shown that whenever we've gotten into the playoffs and he's healthy and able to play."

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