Utah Jazz: Trade of Mehmet Okur surprises Tyrone Corbin, players

Published: Monday, Oct. 5 2015 7:27 a.m. MDT

Paul Millsap and C.J. Miles are the only players still with Jazz from the 2007 Western Conference Finals team.   (Mike Terry, Deseret News) Paul Millsap and C.J. Miles are the only players still with Jazz from the 2007 Western Conference Finals team. (Mike Terry, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — So stunned by what he'd seen on the tube, C.J. Miles had to rewind his TV three times Thursday night before the breaking news fully registered.

Mehmet Okur traded?

Memo to New Jersey?

Okur for the Nets' 2015 second-round pick and a $10.8 million trade exception?

After rewinding times three, Miles realized he wasn't "bugging" (to use his word for going crazy).

"It's tough," Miles said. "He's been here since I've been here. He's a good friend of mine."

Soon, another another weird realization occurred to the 24-year-old.

With Mehmet Okur's trade, C.J. Miles has now been with the Jazz longest.     (Tom Smart, Deseret News) With Mehmet Okur's trade, C.J. Miles has now been with the Jazz longest. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

"That makes me the person who's been here the longest," Miles said. "That's what is so crazy about it."

As local weathermen say, if you want to see the roster change in the NBA, wait 15 minutes, right?

That revolving door, Jazz fans have learned all too well in the past year, even opens and shuts in Utah — for people not named John Stockton, Karl Malone and Jerry Sloan, at least.

Oh wait, the Hall of Famers are gone, too.

"That's the NBA life," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "That's the way things are."

Case in point: Memo's move to Snookiland leaves Miles and Paul Millsap as the sole roster members from the Jazz's 2007 Western Conference Finals team.

Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko, Okur, even Rafael Araujo, have exited stage right. Matt Harpring traded his basketball shoes in for a microphone.

Lasting legacies, it seems, have been replaced by short-term leases.

"It's the nature of the game," Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said.

Thursday turned out to be a "here today, gone tonight" scenario for Okur.

He practiced with the Jazz in the morning, visited sick children in the hospital with the team in the afternoon and then learned he was going to be reunited with D-Will in the evening.

"He was shocked to hear the trade," an empathetic Corbin said. "It's a difficult time for it to happen."

To a man — and Turkish teen — Jazz members are also shocked the fun-loving, 3-point specialist is no longer around to bust their guts by saying "That's how I roll!" in the locker room or "So much fun" after suicide drills.

They're bummed out, too.

"It hit me like a ton of bricks," Millsap said. "I didn't really see it coming. I don't think anybody seen it coming."

The 19-year-old who used to wake up in the middle of the night to watch his fellow countryman play hoops for the Jazz on Turkish TV might've been the saddest person at practice Friday.

"He was just like big brother to me," Jazz rookie Enes Kanter said. "I'm still just kinda sad."

The older Jazz members will miss Okur's humor, kindness and sarcasm, his competitive spirit and attitude — not to mention the basketball skills that made him such a valuable and unique center.

"He was equally good in the locker room as he was on the floor, probably better because of his personality," Corbin said. "The guys liked him. He was a good guy to be around. He was funny. We're going to miss him."

Including on the golf course, where Okur could occasionally be found with teammates and coaches.

Once the initial shock wears off, Okur might think back and fondly remember how the Jazz took a risk by signing the 6-11 center out of Detroit to a six-year, $50 million deal back in 2004. Utah then gave the 2002 second-round pick a $21 million two-year extension in 2009.

Memo's Achilles tendon injury in April 2010 forced the Jazz to search elsewhere for a center, and the team ended up with Jefferson and the final three years of his contract worth $42 million.

Okur returned to camp this year 100 percent healthy and has received high praise from the Jazz for his form.

But the reality is that Okur had become the fourth big man option in Utah behind Big Al, Millsap and potential-packed 20-year-old Derrick Favors, who's shown his ability to play both post positions at a high level during camp and preseason.

Fact of the matter, $10.8 million is an awfully steep salary for the Jazz to pay for a 32-year-old backup big man.

It was hard to swallow for everybody in the Jazz organization — and for many fans — but receiving an equally valued trade exception and a future pick from the desperate Nets was too good of a deal for Utah's front office to pass up.

New Jersey needed someone to fill in for injured Brook Lopez. The Jazz needed something of great value for Okur.

The move will free up minutes for Favors, Kanter and even Jeremy Evans, who gives the Jazz the bounciest power forward option in the NBA.

On one hand, Utah will be quicker, more athletic and younger in the middle because of the move. Then again, the Jazz will lose a defense-stretching long-distance shooter with improved interior moves.

Regardless, losing Mr. Congeniality — who happens to be married to a former Miss Turkey — is a heartbreaker on a personal level.

"He's a really good guy in the locker room, on the floor, great to play with, so it's tough to see him go," said Miles, Okur's teammate since 2005. "But you understand it's a business and that's the way it goes sometimes."

Even if it hurts hearts a bit.

"Memo was a good guy, a good vet, been a round a long time," Jefferson said. "I was learning stuff from him every day. I (was always) picking his brain. He will be missed here."

Millsap appreciated that his teammate for the past five seasons was a "humble" man.

"It's tough to lose a guy like that," he said.

Even tougher when he's one of so many friends and teammates who've come and gone over the past several seasons.

Veteran guard Raja Bell goes back further with the Jazz, having played in Utah from 2003-05. But Millsap and Miles are now the only ones who were on the team as recently as the 2009-10 season.

"We're the last ones standing," Millsap said. "It happens. It's the nature of the business. We've got to move on and continue to try to progress."

Where are they now?

Only two players from the Utah Jazz's 2007 Western Conference Finals squad remain on the team. The rest are scattered from Los Angeles to Croatia.

Paul Millsap: Utah Jazz

C.J. Miles: Utah Jazz

Matt Harpring: Utah (broadcaster)

Carlos Boozer: Chicago

Ronnie Brewer: Chicago

Mehmet Okur: New Jersey

Deron Williams: New Jersey

Derek Fisher: Los Angeles Lakers

Gordan Giricek: Croatia

Andrei Kirilenko: Russia

Jarron Collins: Recently in China

Dee Brown: Italy

Rafael Araujo: Brazil

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