Utah Jazz: Miles warned Millsap about the long wait

Published: Monday, July 13 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Paul Millsap () Paul Millsap ()

Paul Millsap has been warned.

C.J. Miles delivered the counsel, because he knows.

"I told him it was going to be the longest seven days of his life," Miles said of the waiting period for Millsap, who will learn by the end of this week if the Jazz will match the four-year, $32 million offer sheet — replete with $10.3 million payable up front — that he signed Friday with the Portland Trail Blazers.

"He asked about it," added Miles, the Jazz small forward who waited several days last summer before learning that Utah had matched the offer sheet he signed then with Oklahoma City. "I said, 'Man, all you can do is just wait. I mean, try to just find something to do to take your mind off it.' "

Golf. Tennis. Shop 'til you drop.

Or maybe Millsap, the Jazz's backup power forward and a restricted free agent, will ponder further if even wants Utah to match.

He's told teammates he wants to stay, but his representatives suggest otherwise.

"He still has a little despair, still is a little bit disappointed about the situation," said Millsap's uncle and rep, DeAngelo Simmons. "Because (the Jazz) really played hardball, and he wasn't paid attention to.

"To not set a value on their player and let someone else do it," Simmons added, "is questionable."

Despite initially suggesting they would make a contract proposal when the NBA's summer negotiating period opened late last month, the Jazz — perhaps altering course because starting power forward Carlos Boozer decided earlier that same day to opt in for the final year and last $12.65 million on his current contract — instead encouraged Millsap's camp to first seek the best deal they could find in the league's soft free-agency shopping market.

No offers came for more than a week — from Utah, or any other team — and for that Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor makes no apologies.

"I didn't want to bid against ourselves," he said.

The Jazz, according to Millsap's reps, later said no offer would be forthcoming until other similarly skilled free agents — including Shawn Marion, who went from Toronto to Dallas as part of a multi-team sign-and-trade, and Cleveland's Anderson Varejao, who re-signed with the Cavaliers — established their true value.

Millsap's side didn't appreciate the wait.

"Shawn Marion never rebounded for you. Varejao never sprawled on the floor for you. They never took a charge for you," Simmons said. "Why let those guys set the market for you?"

Marion, as it turns out, will make about $38.9 million over five years, according to ESPN.com.

Varejao's deal, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, is guaranteed at $42.5 million if he plays five years or $48 million if he goes six, which tough-to-attain incentives that could push total value to $50 million.

That's average salary, in other words, close to what Millsap wound up getting.

But the Jazz, meanwhile, weren't about to be swayed by even those numbers.

Late last week they did supposedly offer a multiyear deal in the range of $7 million per season, with the possibility of going to $7.5 million over three years — but only after catching wind that Portland was preparing a generous offer.

When the Blazers proposed an average of $8 million over four years with so much money up front, then, Millsap reached for the closest pen.

So now the Jazz are left to check under couch cushions, pass the hat and search for a taker for Boozer via trade as they try to figure out how in the world they can scrape up $10.3 million in the next two weeks.

And for that Simmons makes no apologies.

"This was something we were told to do," he said, "so it's not our fault that we got an offer sheet."

That brings everything back to where Millsap would rather play, and how upset he'd be if the Jazz indeed matched.

"It should never have gotten to that. That's how I feel," Simmons said. "But I don't think anything will change with Paul, no matter what happens, because Paul loves the game. He'll give all he's got no matter where he is. He loves the game that much."

Still, Millsap's reps have made it clear their client never would have signed the offer sheet if he weren't ready and more than willing to play for Portland.

"It's a great fit for the kid," said Ara Vartanian, who also represents Millsap.

But is it really?

"That was obviously the discussion we had," Vartanian said, "and Paul feels comfortable that there's a fair chance for him to earn minutes there."

Yet power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and center Greg Oden — the NBA's No. 2 overall draft choice in 2006 and No. 1 overall in 2007, respectively — seem entrenched in Portland.

So if the Jazz don't match, the scrappy Millsap might be looking at playing several more seasons as a reserve — something that this past season the 2006 second-rounder suggested he's ready to move beyond.

Which is why the fact Portland would even be tempted to tender such a lucrative offer sheet to Millsap baffles Jazz GM O'Connor.

"What I can't imagine is if they're gonna pay what's reported out there to the backup, what are they gonna pay to their starter?" he said with reference to Aldridge, who has been negotiating a contract extension of his own. "Probably a maximum contact."

No need to worry, though, Vartanian suggests.

He said was told during the negotiating process that Millsap — who did not respond to an interview request — could be the first forward off Portland's bench, and that against certain lineups he might even open at power forward with Aldridge pushed to center.

And Blazers coach Nate McMillan is said to be a big Millsap fan.

"From what they tell us, Paul is potentially a starter on this team," Vartanian said. "They're looking to go small-ball, because they have such a young, athletic team."

Besides, Simmons suggested, Millsap's high-hustle game translate to multiple positions, from small forward to center — and it isn't just limited to rebounding, his specialty, and cleanup points.

"He's a ballplayer, just straight ballplayer," he said. "He can do a lot of things, has a lot of tools, and he fits in with anybody. He's not a guy who dominates, so he doesn't have to have plays run for him, as we've seen in Utah.

"He's not selfish. He's comfortable with just playing ball and having fun. He's a winner. Winners don't care about stuff like that," Simmons added. "That's the luxury of a Paul Millsap. You can put him anywhere and in any situation, and he's going to do what he does best first, and all the rest later."

For now, then, Millsap waits and wonders.

Will he go to Portland, the team that first agreed to dump more than $10 million into his bank account by the end of the month, and shop for one really pricey umbrella?

Or does he stay in Utah — where the Jazz first vowed to match no matter what, but now seem to wavering a bit — and not worry about paying for a mover?

Stressful as it may be — and Miles understands the conflicting emotions like few can — it's not a bad pickle in which to be caught.

"It's a good feeling, but it's like a split — because you feel good, it's a new situation, but, at the same time, you have a great team that you're on and a lot of friends that you've made," Miles said. "The camaraderie's been great here for the last four, five years, so why would you want to leave?

"I was prepared for either situation," he added. "We had thought about what we would do, or what it would be like, but I never got too far one way, because I didn't know what was gonna happen."

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

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