As Carlos Boozer trade rumors continued to swirl Wednesday, Jazz restricted free agent Paul Millsap negotiated the first full day of the NBA's summer free-agency shopping market.
Much of the interest in Millsap is known to have come from Oklahoma City, which has enough team payroll salary cap space to sign Utah's backup power forward to an offer sheet.
For now, however, caution seems to be the name of the game.
"I think that in this economy, a lot of teams are second-guessing themselves and doing their research to make sure they're making the wise decision," said DeAngelo Simmons, Millsap's uncle and representative.
Even if Oklahoma City and Millsap agreed to terms, the Thunder would face likely competition from the Jazz — who've vowed to match any offer sheet the 2006 second-round draft choice signs with another team.
With starting power forward Boozer, starting center Mehmet Okur and backup shooting guard Kyle Korver all deciding earlier this week to remain with the Jazz for at least one more season, however, there could be a cap to Utah's commitment to match.
One NBA agent said the Jazz will match unless Millsap's deal is "crazy money." Asked if a contract starting at $10 million per season is just that, the agent dubbed it "borderline crazy."
Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor on Tuesday told NBA.com that "we're going to re-sign Paul Millsap unless the number is outrageous," which is a departure from the franchise's initial unequivocal commitment to match.
Millsap is believed to be seeking a multi-year deal starting at $10 million or more, while Boozer — a two-time NBA All-Star and two-time USA Basketball Olympic medal winner — evidently is on the trade block following his decision to opt in for $12,657,233 next season.
ESPN.com on Wednesday reported that "the most frequently cited counter to (the idea of Oklahoma City signing Millsap to a tough-to-match offer sheet) is that the Jazz will match any reasonable offer because they plan to trade Boozer between now and February. ... Yet as one team official out West notes, any team that deals for Boozer this offseason or during the regular season is 'not going to give up a whole lot' beyond matching expiring deals to Utah since Boozer will now be joining the 2010 free-agent class."
O'Connor can't comment on the Jazz's free-agency plans until early next week, when the NBA's collectively bargained moratorium on such behavior expires.
Millsap's reps said more than five teams called shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday. That group includes not only Oklahoma City, but also Memphis and Utah.
Several others called Wednesday morning, including some that weren't expected.
"Teams in the running for a championship," Simmons said Wednesday. "Teams ... that are high-profile teams, which is a good thing."
"Teams not even on our radar, to be honest," added Ara Vartanian, another of Millsap's representatives.
The two representatives suggested some teams are being quite creative, including discussions about front-loaded contracts and sign-and-trade possibilities.
That evidently includes Oklahoma City, whose assistant general manager is ex-Jazz player personnel director Troy Weaver — and which signed swingman C.J. Miles to an offer sheet that the Jazz matched last offseason.
According to The Oklahoman newspaper, "Thunder officials late Tuesday night aimed to gauge Millsap's character and the 24-year-old's interest in coming to Oklahoma City. Millsap's camp was said to have questions about playing time with the Thunder and Millsap's potential role.
"Additional playing time and a bigger role could ultimately be a key negotiating chip for the Thunder if Oklahoma City goes all in. Millsap is almost certainly stuck behind Boozer for as long as the two-time All-Star is on (Utah's) roster. But among the options in Oklahoma City are moving Kevin Durant back to shooting guard and sliding Jeff Green to small forward to create a starting spot for Millsap.
"Millsap's representatives are also interested in helping the Thunder maintain salary cap flexibility to remain in the best position to re-sign Durant and Green to contract extensions before the start of the 2010-11 season. Options could include a front-loaded contract and a more incentive-based deal."
One team that supposedly had interest in Millsap but shouldn't any more is the Detroit Pistons, who on Wednesday committed most of their ample cap space to Chicago guard Ben Gordon and Milwaukee unrestricted free agent power forward Charlie Villanueva.
Gordon, according ESPN.com, "will receive a five-year, $55 million deal," while Villanueva's agreement — first reported by The Associated Press — is on a five-year deal for $40 million, according to unidentified ESPN.com sources.
That would seem to take the Pistons out of the running not only for Millsap, but also on-the-block Boozer.
"The Jazz most likely will try to trade Boozer," the Detroit News reported Wednesday.
"There has been widespread speculation the Pistons may be a trade partner, with either Richard Hamilton or Tayshaun Prince being part of the package going to the Jazz. However, over the last two days, (Pistons basketball boss Joe) Dumars has indicated his reluctance to move either Hamilton or Prince in a deal for Boozer."
Elsewhere, Memphis' reported trade of swingman Quentin Richardson to the Los Angeles Clippers for power forward Zach Randolph on Wednesday seemingly eliminates the Grizzlies as Millsap suitors.82 comments on this story
Meanwhile, the New York Daily News reported Wednesday that "there are conflicting reports on how much the Knicks are willing to spend on (restricted free agent power forward David) Lee ... (but) a team source claims the Knicks will offer Lee a four-year deal worth $32 million, which is below his asking price of $10 million per season."
Lee's desired numbers are the basis for Millsap's similar tag.
And Yahoo.com reported Wednesday that Orlando backup center "Marcin Gortat's agent is telling teams he already has a full midlevel offer" — a multi-year deal starting at more than $5 million. Houston made the offer, one NBA agent said.
All of which leaves Millsap waiting for his own offer.
"(Whether) that comes today or tomorrow," Vartanian said, "you still have to look at what's best for Paul."