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Utah Jazz: Millsap next hopes to cash in on a starting position with Jazz

Published: Sunday, July 19 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Jazz power forward Paul Millsap told media he loves playing in Utah and is relieved things worked out.

Keith Johnson, Deseret News

In Paul Millsap's mind, an offer sheet, a match and the many millions to come mark only a beginning.

It's a future he hopes will open with a start.

Followed by another. And another. And a multitude more.

Because as the Jazz power forward who didn't merely talk about a pay raise but actually went out and got one this NBA summer, he knows expectations will be higher in seasons ahead — and yearns for personal responsibility to increase accordingly.

"I would love to start," Millsap said Saturday, when the three-year reserve spoke publicly for the first time since Utah matched the four-year, $32 million offer sheet he signed earlier this month with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Starting would mean replacing two-time NBA All-Star Carlos Boozer, who instead of getting the salary increase he called for last December wound up opting out of a soft free-agency market and into the final year and last $12.65 million on his current contract.

Boozer's on the trade block now, and his departure would create a void Millsap is ready and willing to fill.

"You know," he said, "my role for the past couple years has been to come off the bench playing behind a great player and watching the things he (does) when he gets out there and starts, the things he did to prepare to start.

"It helped me out a lot. You know, starting will be a great thing for me. ... Hopefully it will work out to that situation."

Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor had no comment when asked specifically about the grand plan.

But he did acknowledge that the franchise senses Millsap — a 2006 second-round draft choice made good — is ready to take his career to the next level.

"I think we'd have to feel that way," O'Connor said, "to give him to the contract."

The deal — dubbed "toxic" by a Portland newspaper as the Blazers were preparing it, since it supposedly was designed to dissuade a match — calls for about $10.3 million, including a $5.6 million signing bonus, to be paid by the end of the month.

Yet the Jazz, after initial hesitancy, ultimately exhibited no qualms about touching and absorbing the deal's up-front monetary pain.

"The structure had nothing to do with it," said O'Connor, who suggested the match instead was made based on a willingness to accept Millsap's value having being set at $8 million per season.

Added Millsap: "I don't think there is such a thing as a toxic contract, from my point of view."

From here on out, then, Millsap's focus is on what's to come.

Expressing a "sigh of relief" over "a frustrating process" he "tried not to stress over," Millsap — who spent more than a week waiting for an actual offer from the Jazz or any other team, then most of another week waiting to learn the franchise's plans — suggested he never wanted, or expected, anything less than a match.

"I'm right where I want to be — you know, back in Utah," he said. "You know, I love it here — and I can't wait to get back on the court.

"I knew all along what was gonna happen," Millsap added, "and I think they had in their mind what was gonna happen. So, it happened."

Yet there were, he admitted, moments of doubt.

"You never know," Millsap said. "Anything could happen."

Yet Millsap never visited Portland on a recruiting trip. He never spoke with Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan. And he never spoke with Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard.

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