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."
The Hall-of-Fame coach continued to gush, as he's done all season, about Millsap's energetic efforts.
Millsap, a second-round draft pick, was one of Sloan's bright spots of the somewhat challenging season.
"He's one of those guys that came in here and worked his butt off," Sloan said.
That helped him be ready to seize the golden opportunity and help buoy the Jazz when Boozer went out in November with his injury.
"Those are things you're always excited to see players do," Sloan said, "because it wasn't handed to them on a platter by being a top pick in the draft or that sort of thing. He had to work to get to where he was today and you've got to certainly respect that out of him."
Deron Williams said he knows how hard of a season it was for his U.S. men's Olympic basketball teammate.
"He just had a tough situation this year," he said. "I know Booz and he doesn't like sitting out, he doesn't like missing games. It's not like he was having fun sitting on the bench watching us in street clothes. . . .
"I talk to Booz a lot. He loves to play, loves to win. He just had a rough year."
At the same time, Williams admires how Millsap stepped in and stepped up.
"I think Paul's huge for this team," Williams said. "What he does on both ends of the floor, how hard he competes every night, that's what you want on your team. You want those types of players, guys that are going to come out and do their job and work hard."69 comments on this story
But Williams, who said he wants to help management make decisions about the franchise's future, admits it'll be a financial struggle to keep both of his guys.
"Paul, I think with his play is going to command a little paycheck, to say the least," Williams said.
"They both play the same spot," he added, "so it's going to be hard to get both of those guys the playing time that they command."