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Utah Jazz: Millsap's contract causing concern

Published: Saturday, July 4 2015 2:02 a.m. MDT

Paul Millsap, left, and Lamar Odom of the Lakers go after a loose ball during first round action of the NBA playoffs in Salt Lake City last April. (Michael Brandy, Deseret News) Paul Millsap, left, and Lamar Odom of the Lakers go after a loose ball during first round action of the NBA playoffs in Salt Lake City last April. (Michael Brandy, Deseret News)

It's been described as hefty, substantial, explosive and even toxic.

Whether the offer sheet restricted free agent Paul Millsap signed with the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night — for four years and roughly $32 million, including a whopping $10.3 million or so payable within a week — is noxious enough to keep the Jazz from matching it, however, remains to be seen.

"The indication I got is that they're not going to do it," said Millsap's representative and uncle, DeAngelo Simmons.

Yet even while somewhat mixed signals seemed to be coming from the franchise's front office Saturday, general manager Kevin O'Connor did have this to say regarding Jazz ownership: "I don't think the Miller family likes to be bullied."

But bullies the Blazers are trying to be.

The offer sheet signed by Millsap, Utah's backup power forward, calls for him to make approximately $6.3 million next season, $6.2 million in 2010-11, $6.7 million in 2011-12 and $7.2 million in 2012-2013 — plus a $5.6 million signing bonus.

Moreover, both the signing bonus and approximately $4.7 million of first-season salary must be paid within seven days after the NBA formally approves the contract — the structure of which already has received the league's OK.

That's right: $10.3 million and change payable up front.

Simmons on Saturday called contract both "unique" and "complex."

Complicated, as well, seem to be Millsap's feelings.

"He was excited about the situation," Jazz small forward C.J. Miles said Saturday. "Talking to him, like, he wants to be back here. And we talked with him (Friday night), the last couple days. I mean, he wants to be back here. Hopefully we can bring him back. But it's out of his hands."

Yet another of Millsap's representatives, Ara Vartanian, suggested Friday that the client would rather be a Blazer.

"I honestly think Portland is a great fit for Paul — a young team, a great chance to win a championship," he said. "And the Jazz might be a little uncertain for him."

That's cause for the Jazz to perhaps reassess their much-ballyhooed vow to match any offer that Millsap — a 2006 second-round draft choice who averaged 13.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game last season — might sign with another team.

"We're going to have seven days to take a hard look at the decision we're going to make," Jazz president Randy Rigby said Saturday in Lehi, where he was playing in a charity golf tournament hosted by Deron Williams — a tourney for which Millsap, incidentally, did not show up as previously planned.

"I think it's going to take time for us to analyze it and really make sure we're making the right decision," Rigby added. "We've got to look at the financial well-being of the situation.

"We've got to look at short- and long-term impact of what this means for us, and we'll go from there."

The $10.3-plus million up front is somewhat disconcerting, suggested Rigby, whose club — if it matched, and discarded no other players by end of the next season — would be looking at paying what amounts to a fine of more than $12 million for exceeding the NBA's team payroll luxury-tax threshold.

"It's a little bothersome and a little concerning," he said, "because it does particularly force an issue, because now it has impacts on what it means for us as it relates to luxury-tax issues. It complicates matters greatly."

O'Connor, however, seemed less worried about the up-front money and more interested in feeling assured that the Jazz were getting proper value for their dollar.

Leaning on a golf umbrella, he indicated as much before teeing off in the same tournament as Williams, Rigby, Miles and others.

"They (the Blazers) can put money — a lot of money — up front. But I don't think that that's the issue ... if your organization is equipped to be able to handle it," O'Connor said. "And we've talked about it, what could happen. There's nothing that surprised us as far as this goes. We (had) the numbers listed from $6 (million) to $10 (million) on what his signing bonus could be. So, we'll just evaluate it.

"You determine if it's worth it, Paul's worth it. That's what you always do. ... You don't want to overpay, or panic on something.

"You know, we said we were gonna match — and we'll take a look at it," the Jazz GM added.

"If it's where it's supposed to be, or close to where it's supposed to be, we'll evaluate it. But if it's in the $11 (million)-or-$12 million range that might be a little difficult."

While the deal does average $8 million, it will cost the Jazz $11.8 million in cash next season — plus the punitive tax, which pushes Millsap's effective cost for next season to more like the $20 million range.

"It's going to be tough," said Williams, who will make about $13.5 million himself next season. "It's going to be tough to re-sign Paul, and then pay that tax. But so many things can happen.

"I'm confident in Kevin (O'Connor)," he added. "I know he's going to do the right thing — you know, try to make it possible. I know he wants Paul back. I know (family ownership rep) Greg (Miller) wants Paul back. Everybody on our team wants Paul back. So, hopefully we can make it happen. Somehow."

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

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