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Utah Jazz trade Eric Maynor and Matt Harpring

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 23 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

Matt Harpring walks off the floor after crashing into the seats at the final buzzer as the Jazz loose to the Lakers 113-100 in the first game of the Western Conference playoffs in Las Angeles last season.  (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Matt Harpring walks off the floor after crashing into the seats at the final buzzer as the Jazz loose to the Lakers 113-100 in the first game of the Western Conference playoffs in Las Angeles last season. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

MIAMI — The Utah Jazz on Tuesday traded rookie point guard Eric Maynor and veteran forward Matt Harpring's expiring contract to Oklahoma City for the rights to a forward from Germany who has never played in the NBA.

The cost-cutting trade will save more than $10 million for the Jazz, who are well in excess of the NBA's team payroll salary cap and luxury-tax threshold.

"It's good for Oklahoma City, because they get a good young player (in Maynor)," Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said today. "And it's good for us, because it allows us to address our financial situation.

"Basically the reason we did that was to relieve ourselves of some luxury-tax responsibilities ... and to do that we had to give up an asset," he added. "It was a difficult decision. We're disappointed that we had to do that, but in these economic times we saved a great deal of money and we're able to be aggressive, still, going forward."

Utah Jazz guard Eric Maynor runs the point as the Utah Jazz defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 120-93 in the EnergySolutions Arena on Nov. 30. (August Miller, Deseret News) Utah Jazz guard Eric Maynor runs the point as the Utah Jazz defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 120-93 in the EnergySolutions Arena on Nov. 30. (August Miller, Deseret News)

The trade — essentially a salary dump of Harpring's burdensome contract, at the cost of 22-year-old Maynor — reduces Utah's roster count from 14 to 12.

But the Jazz do plan to get back to the league-required minimum of 13 by adding another point guard in the near future.

They have two weeks to do so.

Point guards currently available in the open market who could supplement Price on the Jazz bench include former Jazz guard Keith McLeod, who is averaging 19.9 points and 6.1 assists per game for Dallas' NBA Development League affiliate in Albuquerque; just-waived Wilks, a 30-year-old veteran who has played for 10 NBA teams; last season's backup, Brevin Knight, who currently is working Charlotte Bobcats games as a radio analyst; and ex-Jazz point Jacque Vaughn, who last played 30 games for San Antonio last season.

The Jazz, meanwhile, still have a another reserve point on the roster in combo guard Ronnie Price — though the Utah Valley product is just recently back from a toe foot injury that cost him 15 straight games.

Maynor had been backing up starter Deron Williams, but with the Team USA Olympic guard averaging 38.5 minutes per game O'Connor didn't seem to have any great concerns about the club's situation at the point.

"The fact is we've got Deron," the Jazz GM said in a telephone interview.

The Jazz have no plans whatsoever to sign the forward whose rights they acquired — Peter Fehse, a 6-foot-11 big who plays in his native Germany for Mitteldeutscher BC Weissenfels.

Fehse was drafted by Seattle — now Oklahoma City — at No. 49 overall in the second round of the 2002 NBA Draft, but he's spent his entire career in Europe.

Maynor was selected at No. 20 overall by Utah in the first round of last June's NBA Draft.

He appeared in 26 games for the Jazz, averaging 5.2 points and 3.1 assists in 14.0 minutes per game.

The Thunder — who waived both injury-plagued Shaun Livingston and fill-in guard Mike Wilks in order to accommodate the trade — were in need of backup help at the point behind Russell Westbrook, and have been high on Maynor since his days at Virginia Commonwealth.

Oklahoma City was able to absorb Harpring's and Maynor's salaries without sending any back to Utah because the Thunder had enough room under the NBA's salary cap to do so.

Harpring played the last seven of his 11 NBA seasons in Utah, but his career has been cut short by chronic knee and ankle injuries that prevented him from reporting to training camp, practicing or taking part in any games this season.

He recently did a week's worth of broadcasting work for the Jazz, and has interest in a potential broadcasting career beyond this season.

Harpring's partly insurance-protected $6.5 million salary will come off the Jazz's current payroll, which before the trade stood at about $82 million — roughly $12 million over the $69.92 million tax threshold.

The remaining $885,000 of Maynor's $1.32 salary comes off the books as well, but its loss will be partly offset by the signing of a new reserve point.

The dollar-for-dollar tax faced by the Jazz, then, is reduced by the amount their payroll has been trimmed.

All of which, even when factoring the insurance payments on Harpring deal, leaves Utah about $10.46 million or so better off than it was before Tuesday.

In essence, total cost of player salary and tax for this season dropped from about $94 million to less than $84 million on Tuesday — and it could keep falling, because they're now less than $5 million over the tax threshold, and could get completely under, and actually get a rebate from the league for doing so, by making another deal or two by the NBA's Feb. 18 trade deadline.

"You hate to give up any young players, and that's one of the things that's difficult, and it made it doubly difficult because I think Eric was somebody that fit our DNA," O'Connor told media in Utah.

"But with the ability to save the kind of money we did," he added, "we felt that for the financial well-being of the organization we had to make this deal."

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

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