Sam Amico's latest notes column for FOX Sports Ohio is chock-full of interesting NBA tidbits, including one rumor suggesting that Michael Jordan is considering offering Phil Jackson a piece of the Bobcats and total control over the team's basketball operations. Amico pumps the brakes on the story a little, writing that a rival GM cautions it's merely a rumor being whispered around the league for now, rather than anything concrete. Still, it certainly makes for an interesting talking point. Here are a few more highlights from Amico's piece:
Many believe there's virtually no chance the Jazz will re-sign both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap this summer, and Millsap admits the uncertainty of impending free agency crept into his mind during the season, as Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News writes. "That’s me being honest," Millsap said. "It’s a tough thing to try to put it in the back of your head and not think about it. For the most part, I felt like we did a good job of handling it and the coaches did too." Free agents in the playoffs face even more pressure as they chase a title and their next contract at the same time, and as we watch to see who can take that kind of heat, here's the latest from around the Association:
Earlier, we heard that Tyrone Corbin's job was safe after GM Dennis Lindsey showed public support for the Jazz head coach. Brad Rock of the Deseret News examines the situation a step further, noting that Utah had finished off the season winning nine of their remaining 12 games in addition to Corbin's ability to do so with much of the roster's status up in the air for next season and beyond. Here's more of what we've heard out of Salt Lake City tonight:
Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum seem to be eliciting the most chatter among soon-to-be free agent centers as the offseason draws near, but Al Jefferson could prove just as valuable, if not more so than the oft-injured Bynum. The burly, 6'10" center has never made it past the first round of the playoffs, but he's proven a productive inside force in each of the last seven seasons, a rare commodity in the NBA. The Jazz appear poised to give up either Jefferson or fellow unrestricted free agent Paul Millsap this summer, so it seems there's a decent chance he'll be changing teams.
As I noted yesterday, it's tough to differentiate between Jefferson and Millsap, who are similar in age and on-court efficiency. Jefferson's size might give him an edge to return to Utah, particularly if the Jazz are more comfortable with Derrick Favors at power forward instead of center. Favors appears more ready for starter's minutes than Enes Kanter, a more traditional center, though the club could be anxious to get more minutes for both of their young big men. Utah has dropped few hints about whether Jefferson or Millsap is more likely to return, so it might be easier to assess the market based on the needs of other teams.
NBA executives appear to remain enchanted with centers even in the wake of the small-ball Heat's championship last season, as witnessed by inflated deals for JaVale McGee, Omer Asik, Ian Mahinmi and others. Those three players, who were backups for their teams in 2011/12, signed for a combined $85.124MM. That's one reason Jefferson, despite never having made an All-Star Game, has a chance of inking a maximum-salary contract in the summer. Teams that miss out on Howard and are wary of Bynum's knee trouble could be tempted to spend on a productive 28-year-old big man who has missed more than six games just once in the past six seasons.
Such an offer would likely result in a salary of between $17MM and $18MM next season, or 30% of whatever the salary cap will be for next year. If he re-signed with the Jazz, he could get a total package of five years and close to $100MM. A maximum deal from another team would be four years and about $75MM. Unlike under the old CBA, Jefferson will be limited to the smaller max if he goes to another team even if Utah facilitates a sign-and-trade, as it appears they'd like to do rather than let Jefferson or Millsap walk for nothing in return.
One report suggested the Spurs were the frontrunners to land Jefferson at the deadline, citing the close ties between their front office and Utah's, but San Antonio's payroll concerns likely prevented any deal from getting too far. The Spurs might be more open to bringing Jefferson aboard in the offseason, since they have slightly less than $33MM in commitments for next year. The Suns appeared to have interest in Jefferson at the trade deadline, too, and they'll have plenty of cap room to sign him outright or engage in a sign-and-trade, since there are multiple reports that no one on Phoenix's roster is untouchable. Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News wrote earlier this season that he believed the Mavs could make a run at Jefferson, and if the team can't land a marquee talent like Howard or Chris Paul, Dallas might turn to Jefferson rather than wait another year to upgrade around an aging Dirk Nowitzki. The Hawks were reportedly seeking a "quality young center" in return for Josh Smith at the trade deadline, and while Jefferson, middle-aged by NBA standards, might not be young, he otherwise fits the bill.
Jefferson was upset after a report from Boston suggested he was open to returning to the Celtics, a prospect that seems far-fetched barring a major overhaul for the C's. In response to that report, Jefferson expressed his desire to remain in Utah, saying, "The only way I won't be there is they don't want me there." It's unclear whether the Jazz want him to stick around as much as he does, and if they do, I don't think a max deal is the most likely outcome. Still, wherever he ends up, I think Jefferson will have a contract worth more than enough to keep him satisfied for years to come.
After keeping both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap at the trade deadline, Utah is expected to re-sign one of them, but not the other, when they both hit unrestricted free agency this summer, reports Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio. The Jazz will likely pursue a sign-and-trade for whichever of the pair they don't keep, Amico adds.
Removing one of the team's starting big men would open up playing time for Derrick Favors, who'll be in the final year of his rookie-scale contract next season and is up for an extension this summer. The Jazz also have center Enes Kanter, who's a recent No. 3 overall pick, just like Favors. Utah's front office is notoriously tight-lipped, and there was plenty of conflicting information before the trade deadline about whether the team was more likely to deal away Jefferson or Millsap. It turned out to be neither, though it would be even more surprising to see the Jazz keep both of them through the summer.
Jefferson makes nearly twice as much as Millsap this season, but they could be in line for similar deals in free agency. They're putting up matching 20.6 PERs this year, and the 28-year-olds are separated in age by just a month and six days. Jefferson, at 6'10", has the ability to play center that the 6'8" Millsap lacks, and the paucity of true centers figures to make Jefferson slightly more sought-after on the market.
The Jazz have Bird rights on both players and can outbid other teams, and they figure to have about $25.3MM in commitments this summer, leaving plenty of cap space to pursue other free agents if they let either Millsap or Jefferson go. They could use some of that room to accomodate whomever they can get back in a sign-and-trade, but their potential sign-and-trade partners will be somewhat limited under provisions of the new collective bargaining agreement that kick in this offseason. Taxpaying teams can't acquire anyone via sign-and-trade, so the Lakers, for instance, who brought in Steve Nash on a sign-and-trade last summer, couldn't do so this year without shedding other salaries to get below the tax line.
Zach Lowe of Grantland leads off his weekly Tuesday column with a lengthy look at the Jazz, a team he calls "the most interesting franchise in the league right now." As Utah approaches an offseason in which it could potentially open up about $30MM in cap space, Lowe shares a few notes of interest on the club:
The Sixers ran up against a buzzsaw tonight, falling to the Heat as Miami ran its winning streak to 17. Philadelphia sits eight games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and even if the team was somehow able to climb into that position, it would likely have to overcome the Heat in the first round. Either way, it looks like the Sixers will soon be turning their attention to the offseason, and there are already a few rumblings about the summer, as we detail here along with other news from Philly:
The latest news and notes from around the Northwest Division on Tuesday evening:
So far, the responses to this morning's poll suggest that, outside of the Hawks' decision to keep Josh Smith, no team's inactivity at the deadline was more surprising than Utah's. In Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, the Jazz had a pair of productive bigs on expiring contracts, and the expectation was that at least one of the two would be moved. However, GM Dennis Lindsey told reporters, including Jody Genessy of the Deseret News, that he felt the club was negotiating from a position of strength, and wasn't under any pressure to make a deal.
Here's more and the Jazz and a few of their Northwest Division rivals: