Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
A glint of light on the Jazz's offseason plans — including their willingness to pay the NBA's luxury tax after next season, if they must — was shed during a pair of weekend television interviews with family ownership head Greg Miller.
The Jazz, Miller said in a reiteration of comments made previously from within the organization, will do whatever it takes to retain restricted free agent Paul Millsap — even if their player payroll was pushed beyond $71 million and into tax territory because starting power forward Carlos Boozer, starting center Mehmet Okur and backup shooting guard Kyle Korver all were to decide against becoming free agents this offseason.
"If we need to," Miller told KSL-TV Ch. 5's Tom Kirkland, "we would not rule out paying luxury-tax money in order to keep him on the team.
"I just love what I see in him. I love his aggression; I love his hustle. He always just seems to be in the right place in the right time."
The league's luxury-tax threshold — yet to be set for next season — is a payroll marker which, when exceeded, means teams must pay a dollar-for-dollar tax for every dollar that they go over.
They also lose their right to share in team-by-team distribution of the tax proceeds.
"We're trying to look at things in a best-case and a worst-case scenario and make sure that we're able to handle things on both ends. And we feel that we will," Miller — CEO of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, parent company of the Jazz — told KSL-TV Ch. 5 in an interview aired late Sunday night.
"When I say, 'worst case,' that means if we had to spend all the money, and all the players with their options decided to come back. That would obviously put us in a luxury tax situation, and we feel that if that were the case we would be willing to go into the luxury tax realm to preserve and protect the team and put the most competitive team that we can on the floor."
The declaration is something of a departure from the Jazz's previous stance on the tax.
The team's late owner, Larry H. Miller, used to say the franchise would never be a taxpayer, then later modified that to say, essentially, that the Jazz would consider paying if they were on the brink of winning an NBA championship and doing so might push them over the top.
The latest comments by Greg Miller, who previously would not commit to paying the tax, seem to echo his late father's sentiments.
"We knew when we signed these (player) contracts years ago that if everything lined up just right we may not have a choice and we may be forced to pay a luxury tax," Miller told KUTV-Ch. 2's David James. "And as we discussed various scenarios, we realized that that may be the case this year — and if we need to pay that in order to keep the nucleus of our team together, we will do it.
"It's not something we want to do long-term, and it's not something we'd like to try to make a habit of. ... Based on today's circumstances, it would just be a one-year deal. If all of players with player options would opt in, we would probably be forced pay the tax, because we are, as an organization, interested in keeping Millsap around."
What Greg Miller didn't say is that another way the Jazz could address the matter should Boozer, Okur and Korver all decide to play out the final year of their current deals would be to start next season above the tax threshold.
Then, if a title were not within sight, they could try to dump salary before next year's trade deadline and before it comes time to actually calculate final payroll figures.
Other comments from Miller on the weekend TV circuit:
Regarding Boozer, who has both vowed to opt out of his current deal and suggested he sees himself as a franchise cornerstone:
"We'd love to have Carlos here," he told KSL. "Carlos is a very talented player. I think he would be one who would be considered a marquee player. But I do have concerns about Carlos' defense, and I have some concerns about his ability to lead the team.
"I would just like to see Carlos step up and play more of a leadership role."
Regarding Okur, who last week essentially said he'd give the Jazz a home-team discount of $3 million to $5 million over any other suitor's total-worth offer if he could re-sign and remain in Utah long-term:
"We'd love to have Memo here as well," he said to KSL, "and I was encouraged to hear that."
Regarding Korver, who last week gave conflicting comments to an Iowa radio station about whether he plans to terminate his contract early and leave now, or return for at least one more season in Utah and test the free-agency market in 2010.
"I've listened to those comments several times, and I've tried to figure out what he's saying, and I really can't tell for sure," Miller told KSL. "What I can tell you is that we love having Kyle on the team. We think he is the kind of player that embodies the traits and the culture that we try to put forward as an organization.
"I think Kyle's defense improved a lot last year, and I think he's a great offensive player, and so we'd love to have him here," Miller said. "Our intent is to do everything we can to keep him here."
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