Center Mel Turpin is scheduled to leave for Spain today, having agreed to a settlement with the Jazz and signed a contract with the Zaragoza pro team to complete the deal that allowed forward Jose Ortiz to join the Jazz.
The Jazz settled the remaining two years on Turpin's NBA contract by accelerating payment of the $250,000 in deferred money they owe him. And once Turpin signed his new contract, the Zaragoza team officially released Ortiz, who signed with the Jazz Thursday in San Juan, Puerto Rico.Jazz president-general manager David Checketts said some undisclosed considerations of the exchange have to be resolved next week, but Friday's meeting in Washington, D.C., basically ended Checketts' month-long effort to land Ortiz and satisfy Zaragoza without legal action.
The idea of supplying Zaragoza with Turpin came up innocently, when Checketts asked president Jose Luis Rubio what he wanted for releasing Ortiz. Rubio said he would need a big man, and Checketts immediately thought of Turpin, the backup center the Jazz had wanted to unload all summer.
Eventually, everyone agreed to the exchange - including Ortiz's agent, Warren LeGarie; Turpin's agency, ProServ; and NBA Players Association general counsel Larry Fleisher, who made sure Turpin would be compensated for being waived by the Jazz, even if he decided not to go to Spain.
"The whole arrangement was changed," Fleisher noted Friday. "Turpin dissolved his contract and got `X' amount of dollars for agreeing to be waived, and that's fine."
In any case, Turpin's career takes an unusual turn after he was the No. 6 choice in the 1984 draft and later was the starting center on a Cleveland playoff team. "He can still come back in a year or two; he'll still be young, and centers are valuable," noted agent William Strickland.
Turpin came to the Jazz with Darryl Dawkins last October in the three-team trade that sent Kent Benson and Dell Curry to Cleveland. He averaged 5.9 points in 79 games as Mark Eaton's backup and was playing consistent minutes until mid March when he fell out of favor with Coach Frank Layden. By the end of the playoffs in May, the 27-year-old Turpin clearly was not in the Jazz's plans.
"I learned a lesson last year," Layden says. "We had an imbalance of unhappy veterans making a lot of money and sitting on the bench."
Layden now has the team makeup he wants and the Jazz received at least some value from Turpin - something in the range of $100,000 they'd have had to pay to free Ortiz from his Zaragoza contract.