Because I've never had an agent or anyone bidding over my services, I don't completely understand the concept of free agency.
Paul Millsap is entertaining offers this week, and if he gets what he wants, the end result will be a salary that starts at $10 million. Per year, not per eon. Considering he made about $800,000 this year, that would be a 1,100 or 1,200 percent raise.
I'm all in favor of the Jazz retaining Millsap and giving him a generous bump in income. They can do that by matching any offer another team makes. The hazardous part is if someone offers him cuckoo money, say, $12 million or $14 million a year, and the Jazz buckle under the fear of having him return to haunt them. Then they're committed to a multiyear deal, at a huge price.
Millsap is a fine player but not a perennial All-Star. And he's certainly not a franchise player. He's a relentless, tough, no-nonsense guy. He gathers up the ball from off the floor, the rim, the glass and the loading docks, if necessary, and keeps it in play. There's not a team in the league that wouldn't want him.
But he's not a superstar.
I know it's a different era, with a different marketplace, but here's some food for thought: If Millsap gets $11 million a year, he'll be earning as much as 10-time All-Star John Stockton ever did.
There could be worse things than losing Millsap to free agency.
Signing him to an overpriced, never-ending contract, for example.
The Jazz need look no further than their own history to remember times when, in the heat of the moment, they paid too much for a very good player. Remember Andrei Kirilenko? He used to be a star in this town. He was supposed to be the cornerstone of the new Jazz. Now he's a confused, unpredictable player who will make $16.5 million next season. He's good but not good enough to lead them to the top.
These days he couldn't lead them to a 7-Eleven, much less the NBA Finals. Meanwhile, his salary is hindering the Jazz from re-signing Millsap.
It's amazing how the marketplace and the moment dictate things in the NBA. In 1997, the Jazz signed Greg Ostertag to a six-year, $30 million contract extension. That doesn't seem like a lot now, but back then it was plenty for a guy who wore a Fred Flintstone tattoo.
On the day of the signing, Larry H. Miller, Jazz owner, said: "People always ask what's going to happen when John and Karl are gone and what the future will look like for the Jazz. As I thought about it. . . it struck me that a big part of the answer to that question is sitting next to me."
To my horror, sitting next to him were Jazz G.M. Tim Howells and Ostertag, neither of whom was capable of dunking on Shaq.
That's where I have the disconnect. I can't figure out the economics of the NBA. When a team signs a player to a 1,200 percent raise, revenue doesn't go up 1,200 percent. And the player's production doesn't go up 1,200 percent.
I understand the Jazz wanting Millsap. You don't want another Mo Williams disaster, where a guy becomes an All-Star after you let him get away. But I'd be careful not to overreach.
Next summer there should be a lot of wonderful free agents available. With Carlos Boozer, Matt Harpring and perhaps others off the books, maybe the Jazz could make a run at one of them.
My general rule of thumb is to only get extravagant when you're signing someone who is/will be your best player and who dramatically improves your chances of going places. We already know how far they've gone with Millsap. He's a nice player, well worth pursuing – to a point. But a franchise player?
No more than Kirilenko was a few years back.
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