David Checketts, the Jazz's president, general manager and designated world traveler, returned from another whirlwind trip Friday night. At last, his summer housecleaning was - mostly - complete.
After trading Kelly Tripucka and losing Rickey Green in the expansion draft in June, Checketts settled a contract with Mel Turpin and exchanged him with the pro team in Zaragoza, Spain, for freeing Jose Ortiz from his Zaragoza contract."It's wild how it all happened," Checketts mused upon arrival from Washington, D.C.
And, if you can imagine this, the deal is still not complete. One issue remains after Turpin arrives in Spain today, an undisclosed condition between him and the Zaragoza team before his two-year contract takes effect.
But the Jazz have settled with Turpin and signed Ortiz - if something goes wrong now, the Jazz can still wrap up everything by helping provide a certain other American player already overseas to Zaragoza.
No wonder Checketts says, "This is the most complicated, difficult negotiation the Jazz have ever had."
They managed to sign Ortiz to a fairly standard rookie contract, for three years plus an option year, a package in the $1.5 million range. The Jazz could have negotiated or gone to court with Zaragoza to gain Ortiz's release from the last three years on his contract, but Zaragoza president Jose Luis Rubio asked Checketts to help find him a big man, and Checketts immediately thought of Turpin.
"It's not the best solution financially," Checketts said of the foreign exchange of Turpin. The other alternative would have created controversy - suspending Turpin without pay at the start of training camp and forcing him to reduce his body-fat percentage, as called for in his contract.
"I didn't want the distractions, the questions about him," said Checketts.
So the career of Turpin takes a rather unusual turn, considering he was the No. 6 player taken in the 1984 NBA draft and was once the starting center for a Cleveland playoff team. He can only hope the increased playing time in Spain will revive his NBA value. "He can come back in two years and he'll still be young (29) and centers will be in demand," said his agent, ProServ's William Strickland.
Checketts, Turpin, Rubio and ProServ's David Falk signed their series of agreements Friday in the ProServ office in Washington. The original plan was to have Ortiz come to Washington, but Checketts became frustrated by his inability to contact Ortiz in Puerto Rico and flew to San Juan early Thursday morning and signed him after asking agent Warren LeGarie to track down Ortiz.
"That was the only way it was going to happen," said Checketts.
The visit to Ortiz was Checketts' third in nine months, once to Spain and twice to Puerto Rico, and never scheduled in advance. "It seems like an international spy novel," noted Checketts. "The irony of all this is you can't be convinced he's worth it, because he's never set foot on an NBA floor."
We'll see what happens in October.