Perhaps this is a good time to cut the ribbon on Deron Williams' Lexus. Or Deron Williams' Land Cruiser. Maybe even Deron Williams' Big Assist Ford.

Don't laugh. Car dealerships helped keep Karl Malone and John Stockton in Utah.

If I were Jazz owner Larry H. Miller, I'd do whatever it took to keep Williams from leaving here. With Malone and Stockton, he didn't give them dealerships, but he helped get them set up.

I'd do something like that for Williams. To use a biblical phrase, if I'd offer him all that was mine, even unto half the kingdom. You say you want a maximum contract, D-Will? Done. Need help setting up a car dealership? Just say the word.

Health spas, restaurants, finance companies, tanning salons — I'd put 'em all at his disposal.

We're talking about the franchise, here.

The Jazz drifted into another off-season Saturday, cleaning out their lockers at EnergySolutions Arena. It was a fairly positive event, all things considered. The Jazz lost to the Lakers — a team many believe will win the championship — in six games. They came back from a 19-point deficit in Game 6 and nearly stole the victory.

Objectively, they finished where most experts expected: a second-round exit.

But with the season over, attention has quickly turned to the future. And the Jazz's entire future depends on Williams, who becomes a free agent in a year. But as rules allow, the Jazz can't sign him until July 8 but can begin negotiations now to lock him up for years.

Miller has already hinted he'll offer Williams a "max contract," the highest allowable salary for a player with his experience.

So it's time to get going. This summer the Jazz should woo Williams with the longest, best, richest contract allowable. I'd furnish him with a new loaner Lexus and for his birthday give him one of those fancy-schmantzy $10,000 outdoor grills.

I'd treat him like he's the greatest thing since pizza, which in relative terms, he is.

I'd court him like George Bailey courting Mary Hatch in "It's a Wonderful Life": "What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You, you want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey, that's a pretty good idea. I'll give you the moon ... "

Just keep going, Larry.

Last year, it became obvious that even though Carlos Boozer was an All-Star, it was Williams' team. That was even more apparent this year. Boozer is normally a fine offensive player, but he's not a leader. When the Jazz needed to spark a comeback, it was Williams who did so. Williams who took the biggest shots. Williams who produced on both ends of the floor.

"I can't say enough about Deron's improvement," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.

Asked if he could imagine a team without Williams, Sloan said, "Well, yeah, we lost 56 games (2004-05)."

Sloan added, "I don't think we'll likely let him get away."

But Williams getting away is a real possibility. He clearly has high value. He grew up in a big market (Dallas) and certainly wouldn't mind the attention that goes with such a location.

He has quietly chafed when overlooked, while contemporaries like New Orleans' Chris Paul is an All-Star. (Curiously, New Orleans is a smaller market than Salt Lake.)

In larger markets, there are more endorsement opportunities.

Asked at locker clean-out Saturday about the possibility of extending his stay in Utah, Williams replied, "Well, that's the plan. I definitely love it here. We have a great coaching staff and have a chance to win."

Music to Sloan's ears.

"I just like it here," Williams continued. "That's where I want to be, so that's the most important thing."

When a reporter wondered if he would sign a "max contract" deal if offered now, he said, "I haven't thought about it, I have no clue. I'm gonna meet with my agent and I'm gonna call you first."

He may want to call Miller, too, just to put his mind at ease.

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