Blog Entry

O'Connor: Jazz prepared to pay tax again

Posted on: May 9, 2010 12:40 pm

With another playoff rout at the hands of the Lakers looming on Monday, the Utah Jazz find themselves in a familiar position. No organization has enjoyed more stability or embraced the same style of play for as long as the Jazz have under Jerry Sloan. And perhaps no top-tier team has fallen short in the postseason as much, either. 

Utah has endured only one losing season in Sloan’s 21 years on the Jazz bench and has earned a spot in the draft lottery only twice. Contrary to late owner Larry Miller’s past assertions that his team would never pay the NBA luxury tax, the Jazz made that commitment last summer when they matched Portland’s offer for restricted free agent Paul Millsap. The commitment was renewed when Sloan persuaded ownership not to trade Carlos Boozer on the last year of his contract at $12.7 million this season. 

Despite another playoff disappointment, GM Kevin O’Connor told recently that the Jazz are prepared to be a tax-paying team next season, too. Whether that entails keeping Boozer, an unrestricted free agent, remains to be seen. But what’s clear is that the Jazz are at a unique crossroads for any franchise – venturing into the second round of the playoffs with a team that has won 50-plus game three of the past four seasons, and owning a lottery pick in the upcoming draft. 

By virtue of a trade with Phoenix, the Jazz own the Knicks’ first-round pick, which was conveyed to the Suns as part of Isiah Thomas’ ill-fated trade for Stephon Marbury in 2004. The Marbury trade continues to be the gift that keeps on giving in two proud Western Conference cities. The Suns used the resulting cap space to sign Steve Nash, who has led Phoenix to within one win of the conference finals. By virtue of the Knicks’ 29-53 record this season, the Jazz are slotted ninth in the lottery order with a 1.7 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick. 

Utah is 1-for-2 in its two most recent forays into the lottery. Coming off a 42-win season in 2003-04,O’Connor held out hope that he’d be able to land No. 1 pick Dwight Howard. He wound up with 14th pick Kris Humphries instead. After a 26-win season in ’04-’05, Utah got the third pick and drafted franchise centerpiece Deron Williams

“I think with the fact that we’ve only had one year with a losing season and were fortunate enough to get Deron Williams has really helped,” O’Connor said. 

With a playoff-ready roster, a lottery pick, and a commitment to capitalize on both by paying luxury tax again, O’Connor hopes he’ll be able to parlay that flexibility into a series of moves that finally will push the Jazz past the second round for the only the second time since Michael Jordan put a dagger in them in back-to-back NBA Finals more than a decade ago. 

“Larry had said at one point he’d never pay [luxury tax,” O’Connor said. “He said it a couple of times. But then he said, if we know that we’re going to have a very good team and it’s not for a long period of time, he certainly would expect to do that. I think it’s a commitment going forward. I don’t think it’s a commitment that we’ve broached yet. We need to see what the numbers are going to be and everything else. But I think we’ve proven already that we’re willing to pay it and I think the results have justified us paying it.” 

Portland’s offer sheet for Millsap was heavily front-loaded with a poison pill designed to force the Jazz to choke on the luxury-tax implications. Utah matched anyway, and Millsap’s salary declines from $10.3 million to $6.2 million next season. Boozer’s $12.7 million salary comes off the books, and there has been only one publicized discussion between O’Connor and Boozer’s agent, Rob Pelinka, about re-signing with Utah. The situation gives O’Connor the flexibility to explore sign-and-trade scenarios, and sources say you can expect high-level discussions with Miami on a Boozer trade at the February deadline to be rekindled. 

The point is, as bleak as things look for the Jazz now – and as much as this resembles a seemingly endless replay of postseason heartache – the franchise is positioned better than it has been in years to finally take the next step. At a time of year when coaches are getting fired and teams are enduring front-office turmoil, the Jazz just keep sticking with the status quo because the status quo has worked. 

“I think the stability has come from the fact that we’ve consistently won,” O’Connor said. “I don’t think you have stability without that.” 

I know this is getting old, but maybe this is the year it finally pays off.

Since: Jul 7, 2009
Posted on: May 14, 2010 1:26 am

O'Connor: Jazz prepared to pay tax again

I believe the best place for King James would be Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant that would be his best chance to win for a long time this would make Kobe Bryant retire real soon their is no way he could keep up with them both and thats 25pts apiece every night 10 reb 5 steals 7 ast fast break pts big two sounds better than the big three to me. what do u say about that plan?

Since: Jan 17, 2007
Posted on: May 12, 2010 5:40 pm

O'Connor: Jazz prepared to pay tax again

hardhat: The trouble with getting a center is...there just aren't any of those around.  College ball has moved away from the low-post game, as has the NBA.  There are few "back to the basket" centers playing anymore, and fewer on the horizon.

Since: Oct 24, 2007
Posted on: May 11, 2010 3:21 pm

O'Connor: Jazz prepared to pay tax again

If the Jazz get Evan Turner, they could build a monster over the next few years. I hope the Jazz either get Evan Turner or Cole Aldrich. Either would do wonder for Utah.

As for Boozer, I hope he gets traded. I don't want to lose him for nothing and I don't want to keep him. It's time to let this be Deron's team and let Millsap take over at PF. Chicago would be a better trade partner than Miami. Taj Gibson is better than anything we could get from Miami.

Since: Jan 18, 2007
Posted on: May 11, 2010 12:50 pm

O'Connor: Jazz prepared to pay tax again

the jazz need to gut this team. you bring this team and 2 new draft picks in and it isnt going to win squat. im a jazz fan and will support this team year after year. i even love all the players. but at the end of the day the team isnt talented enough to go all the way

Since: Sep 17, 2008
Posted on: May 11, 2010 9:40 am

O'Connor: Jazz prepared to pay tax again

what the Jazz need is a center that a has a real game. The defense in the paint is just not there.

Since: Feb 25, 2008
Posted on: May 10, 2010 10:26 pm

O'Connor: Jazz prepared to pay tax again

Imagine if the Jazz can trade up to get Evan Turner. This team has the potential to be dangerously good in the next couple years!

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