With the Jazz's vow to match any offer sheet he signs with another NBA team made loud-and-clear over the last several weeks, perhaps killing his chances of landing a lucrative contract, the level of Oklahoma City's actual interest in Jazz restricted free agent Paul Millsap now has come under question.
ESPN.com's John Hollinger reported Saturday that "my sources informed me that Oklahoma City — the team with the biggest stack of chips remaining — is highly unlikely to splurge this summer" and that "given that the best available young players (Millsap, New York's David Lee and Milwaukee's Ramon Sessions, all restricted free agents) are poor fits on the Thunder's roster, OKC plans to continue with its patient approach rather than overpaying for parts that don't fit especially well."
Added Hollinger: "The Thunder will be value players rather than big-game hunters, looking for opportunistic deals between now and the trade deadline. A year from now, they could have as much as $20 million in cap space, two lottery picks (theirs and Phoenix's) in a strong draft, and one of the league's best young rosters. About the only way to (mess) it up would be to force a big contract into the picture this summer, and with the team already selling out every game, they don't see any need to rush it."
Millsap had been seeking a multi-year deal starting at $10 million or more, but now his best offer might be one from the Jazz — if it ever comes — starting at no more than $6 million.
Memphis and Detroit previously had expressed some degree of interest in Utah's backup power forward, but both are no longer suitors — the Grizzlies because they traded for Los Angeles Clippers power forward Zach Randolph, and the Pistons because they agreed in principle to a deal with ex-Milwaukee forward Charlie Villanueva.
Millsap's representatives previously said title-contending teams armed only with midlevel-exception money (a multi-year deal starting at about $5.8 million) had expressed interest in their client shortly after the NBA's summer shopping market opened late last Tuesday, but for now Oklahoma City is the only team besides Utah identified as a possibility for the 2006 second-round draft choice.
And if the Thunder really aren't serious about making an offer, and Millsap doesn't want to accept a multi-year deal starting at anything less than $7 million, his only option might be to play next season for Utah's $1.03 million qualifying offer, then become an unrestricted free agent in 2010.
The first time free agents can sign new contracts or offer sheets is 10 p.m. Tuesday, when the league's current summer negotiating period comes to a close.
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