Boozer, Okur to stay with Jazz

Updated: June 30, 2009, 9:01 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The Utah Jazz are keeping much of their frontcourt together.

After looking at their options, forward Carlos Boozer and center Mehmet Okur decided to exercise the options on their contracts and stay with Utah.

Boozer
Boozer

Boozer will earn $12.7 million and will join the star-studded free-agent class of 2010. The decision was first reported by the Salt Lake Tribune. Okur is due $9 million next season.

"We are excited that Carlos has decided to remain with the Jazz," general manager Kevin O'Connor said in a release. "We are hopeful he can continue to play at an All-Star level and will have an injury-free season."

Boozer averaged 16.2 points and 10.4 rebounds last season but played in only 37 games due to injuries. He has scored 16.8 points and pulled down 10.0 rebounds per game for his career.

Boozer's decision affects the rest of the Jazz's offseason decisions. Up-and-coming forward Paul Millsap is a restricted free agent.

Okur averaged 17.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game last season. The 6-foot-11 center also hit 45 percent of his 3-pointers.

The Jazz struggled without him when he missed the first three games of the playoffs this spring with a hamstring injury, falling behind the Lakers and never recovering.

"He has clearly been an integral part of our success since his arrival and we are hopeful that he will continue to perform at such a high level in the future," O'Connor said.

A few months ago, Boozer was confident he would be a free agent. He told ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan in December that he was opting out.

"I'm opting out. No matter what, I'm going to get a raise regardless," Boozer told ESPN.com. "I am going to opt out, I don't see why I wouldn't, I think it's a very good business decision for me and my family, but I'd also like to see what happens with the Jazz and stay here."

The landscape changed a lot since Boozer made his statement in December. The financial meltdown caused owners to pull back on spending. The free-agent landscape looked pretty dicey. Only three teams -- the Pistons, Thunder and Grizzlies -- had enough money under the cap to offer Boozer a substantial deal. Two of those teams, the Thunder and Grizzlies, are young teams in the process of rebuilding. Boozer was not in either team's plans, according to sources.

That left the Pistons and Jazz. For months it was assumed that Boozer would land in Detroit. But last week Pistons sources told ESPN.com that Boozer wasn't the team's highest priority and that, if the Pistons pursued him, they weren't willing to give him the $13 to 15 million a year he's looking for.

The Jazz weren't in a great position to re-sign him either with Millsap and Okur still question marks. It's unlikely they would have gone over the luxury tax threshold to re-sign Boozer.

If neither the Pistons nor Jazz offered Boozer a contract, he might have been forced to take the mid-level exception from a team -- a drastic $7 million pay cut for Boozer next season.

That, according to sources, is what pushed Boozer into staying in Utah.

With Boozer returning to Utah, all eyes now turn to Millsap, who is a restricted free agent. If the Jazz decide to sign Millsap, they'll incur the dreaded luxury tax. However, a Jazz source told ESPN.com that the team is willing to do it to keep Millsap. Millsap is expected to have a number of suitors including the Pistons, Grizzlies and Thunder. All three teams could give him a contract with a large starting salary in the $8 to 10 million range.

If the Jazz do pay the luxury tax to retain Millsap, it would be for only one year. Next summer, Boozer, Kyle Korver and Matt Harpring would all come off the books, putting their payroll back below the tax.

Information from ESPN Insider's Chad Ford and Chris Sheridan and ESPN.com's Marc Stein was used in this report.

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