Utah Jazz: Wild free-agency begins with rumors about Millsap, Big Al and more
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The NBA's free agency period began Sunday night at 10:01 MDT.
Nothing official can happen until July 10 when a nine-day moratorium ends and players can sign deals, but there were rumors and reports aplenty whizzing around the league.
Including about the Utah Jazz.
Keep in mind, though, only a few pieces of the free-agency puzzle actually get leaked out into the media.
For starters, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Mo Williams, Randy Foye, DeMarre Carroll, Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson all became unrestricted free agents when it became July 1 on the East Coast.
On Sunday, some information surfaced about the biggest names in that group — Big Al and Millsap.
The Jazz reportedly met with Millsap, their longest-tenured player, in person on Sunday, according to Comcast SportsNet Northwest's Chris Haynes.
Though Utah is moving toward a youth movement, featuring the likes of Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and rookie point guard Trey Burke, general manager Dennis Lindsey has said that the team needs veteran leadership.
"Clearly, shooting is a priority," Lindsey said. "I think some veteran leadership is another thing that Ty probably wants relative to the youth of our club. But there’s quite a few things."
Millsap has been with Utah since he was drafted 47th overall out of Louisiana Tech in 2006. In seven seasons with the Jazz, the undersized power forward has averaged 12.4 points and 7.0 rebounds.
It's unknown whether the Jazz offered him a contract. It's possible this was an exploratory meeting and that Millsap will end up elsewhere or be part of a sign-and-trade deal with another franchise.
As for Jefferson, Utah's leading scorer for the past three years, the 6-foot-10 center is being pursued by the Charlotte Bobcats, according to CBSSports.com's Ken Berger.
It remains possible that the Jazz could have — or will have — talks with Jefferson.
Utah does only have four big men on its roster, including potential starters Favors and Kanter along with draft-night acquisition Rudy Gobert and returning forward Jeremy Evans.
The Jazz haven't indicated whether or not they're ready to fully move on without any of their former players who became free agents, but CEO Greg Miller indicated that the team likes the pieces it has in place.
And he said the following quote before the franchise made the big moves on Thursday to acquire Burke, a potential starting point guard, and Gobert, a 7-foot-2 defensive terror.
"We're down in the bedrock. We know what we have to work with," Miller said. "We have a solid foundation and I'm very excited about our future."
"I think we have beginnings of a foundation," Lindsey added. "We're certainly excited about the guys we have under contract."
It's assumed by many that the most likely free agents to return to the Jazz will be small forward DeMarre Carroll and shooting guard Randy Foye. It's not out of question, either, that point guards Mo Williams or Jamaal Tinsley could return to help mentor Burke.
"Mo Williams loved it in Utah," agent Mark Bartelstein said while refuting a report that Williams would only return if he's a starter. "So he's certainly not opposed to coming back at all."
As for possible new player acquisitions by the Jazz, a couple of intriguing names were mentioned on Sunday night.
Shooting guard O.J. Mayo was the biggest name, and both USA Today's Sam Amick and HoopsWorld's Alex Kennedy reported that the Jazz are interested.
"They're going after him hard," Kennedy wrote on Twitter.
Mayo is a 6-foot-4 shooting guard who averaged 15.3 points and shot 40.7 percent from the 3-point line last season in Dallas. The 25-year-old USC product has been in the NBA for five seasons.
Utah also reportedly "officially inquired about Chris Copeland" after the free-agency period began, according to ESPN's Jared Zwerling.
Copeland is a 6-8 small forward who averaged 8.7 points and 2.1 rebounds for the Knicks last year. He's 29 but has only played one season in the NBA.
Yahoo! Sports reported that Wolves forward Chase Budinger and Spurs center Tiago Splitter are also possible Jazz targets.
In one other report of interest, ESPN also reported that former Jazz sharpshooter Kyle Korver could end up reuniting with ex-Utah star Deron Williams in Brooklyn at a reduced salary.
Utah only has about $28.5 million in contracts on the books — even after Burke and Gobert sign — and will have to pay at least $24 million more to hit the NBA's salary minimum.
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