Where do the Jazz go from here?

First of all, after watching the first few episodes of “Treme,” I find it even more ridiculous that the Utah Jazz took the “Jazz” nickname with them to Salt Lake City. The franchise should apologize to the city of New Orleans and give the name back to the Hornets, who took their name from Charlotte, whose team is now named “Bobcats” after the franchise’s former owner, Bob Johnson.


But back to the Jazz. They were swept out of the playoffs last night by the Lakers, which marks the third straight year that L.A. has eliminated Utah in the playoffs. Over the past three decades, the team has been the model of consistency, with just one losing season in the last 27 years. That has a lot to do with the guy at the top, Jerry Sloan, who has coached the Jazz for 21 straight seasons. One of the biggest travesties in the history of the league is that he’s never won the Coach of the Year award.

Looking ahead to this summer, one big name free agent comes to mind — Carlos Boozer. The 28-year-old forward averaged 20-11-3 this season and shot 56% from the field. Of course the Jazz want him back, right? Not so fast. This was one of Boozer’s “healthy” years. He appeared in 78 games, which marks just the fifth time in eight years that Boozer has played in 52-plus games. In short, he’s an injury risk, but when he’s healthy, he’s an All-Star. Throw in the fact that he’s getting older and it’s obvious why the Jazz are a little leery about handing him a big contract.

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NBA News & Rumors: KG, Westbrook, Jackson, Bynum/Odom, Miller and Millsap

Garnett’s knee is just fine. It has been a concern in camp, but apparently KG has his explosion back. In a recent practice, he caught an alley-oop and slammed it home. The Celtics’ fortunes depend heavily on the health of Garnett’s knee. Without him at full strength, they’ll have a tough time competing with the Cavs and Magic. As an NBA fan, a healthy KG is good for the league.

Is Russell Westbrook turning into a dependable point guard? The Oklahoman reports that is A/T ratio in the preseason is 5.4. Last season it was 1.6, which is quite bad. It’s a small sample size, but if Westbrook can get his A/T ratio above 3.0, it will reap dividends for the Thunder. From a fantasy perspective, if he were to cut his turnovers in half and have the same number of assists (which would result in a A/T ratio of about 3.0), then he’d be the 15th most efficient point guard (just below Mo Williams) instead of the 21st most efficient.

Stephen Jackson will play for the Warriors, but he’s not happy about it. There’s a good chance the Warriors will acquiesce and try to fulfill Jackson’s wishes to be traded, but the 31 year-old has three more years remaining on his contract at the tune of $9.3 per season, so there’s no guarantee that a playoff team would be willing to make a move for him. Miami could move Michael Beasley, but Jackson’s contract would ruin the Heat’s financial flexibility next summer. The Suns could use Jackson to replace an aging Grant Hill, but they’re in financial trouble. The Hornets probably make the most sense, but are they willing to spend?

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Who will have cap space in 2010?

ESPN’s Chad Ford lists nine teams that will have significant cap space next summer. [Insider subscription required.]

1. Nets ($25-$27 million)
2. Knicks ($24 million, assuming they don’t sign anyone for longer than a year)
3. Heat ($20-$22 million)
4. Timberwolves ($16-$18 million)
5. Bulls ($13-$15 million minus whatever they give Tyrus Thomas)
6. Thunder ($14-$15 million)
7. Rockets ($12-$14 million minus whatever they give to Carl Landry and Chuck Hayes)
8. Clippers ($10-$11 million)
9. Kings ($9-$10 million)

This assumes a cap of $53.6 million, which is an optimistic view. The cap could drop below $50 million.

It takes about $14 million of space to sign a max-contract player, so even under these optimistic circumstances, there really are only five teams — the Nets, Knicks, Heat, T-Wolves and Thunder — that will have that kind of space. (The Bulls are likely to keep Thomas and the Rockets are likely to retain Landry and Hayes, though they could make another move here or there to put them in position to add a superstar.)

Of these five teams, the Heat look to be in the best overall shape. Their projected payroll already includes Dwyane Wade, so they have enough to woo another superstar (LeBron, Bosh, Amare, Boozer?) to Miami. They also have a few good young players (Michael Beasley, Daequan Cook and Mario Chalmers) under contract, and the city boasts a great climate and nightlife. But the real draw is playing with Wade, who has already proven that he can win a championship if he has a little help.

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Heat trying to land Boozer, Odom

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports

Now, the Heat are working furiously to deliver Lamar Odom and Carlos Boozer to the shores of Biscayne Bay. The Heat are trying to sell Odom on a five-year, $34 million contract at the mid-level exception, and a league executive with knowledge of the talks says Miami has also hatched a three-way proposal with the Utah Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies to secure Boozer.

The essentials of a possible deal would include Miami sending forward Udonis Haslem and Dorell Wright to Utah. Because Memphis is under the cap, Utah could move Wright’s $2.8 million salary to the Grizzlies and save itself approximately $5.6 million with salary and luxury-tax payments. Memphis would probably get cash and picks for its trouble. The Heat would have to send one more small contract to make the math on the salary exchange work.

Odom can play some small forward, so this isn’t an outrageous plan by Riley and the Heat, though I’m not sure where it would leave Michael Beasley. Wojnarowski says that the Lakers have offered Odom $36 million over four years (which works out to about $8 million per season, after state taxes), so I’m not sure why he’d take the Heat’s deal, unless he is looking to sign the biggest contract overall. There is no state tax in Florida, so Miami’s $34 million deal is slightly larger than the Lakers’ deal, after state taxes.

The Boozer acquisition seems more likely, and although I do like Haslem, I’m not sure that he’s enough to convince Utah to pull the trigger. Portland is also working on a deal for Boozer, since all signs point to the Jazz matching the Blazers’ offer sheet to Paul Millsap whether or not Boozer is on the roster. The Blazers are also trying to get the Pistons involved so that they can try to pry Tayshaun Prince away from Detroit, though Joe Dumars has wisely stayed out of such talks thus far. It appears that he doesn’t see Boozer as a $14 million per season player and that’s what Boozer’s camp is asking for. With his injury history, they need to set their sights a little lower.

NBA Free Agency Rumors: Turk, Charlie V, Millsap and more

Pistons, Blazers interested in Hedo Turkoglu.

The Oregonian reports Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard and assistant general manager Tom Penn called agent Lon Babby last night to begin the courtship of Hedo Turkoglu.

With Carlos Boozer out of the picture, an NBA source tells the Chicago Sun-Times that Turkoglu is now the Pistons’ first choice in free agency.

While the Blazers’ interest has long been rumored, Detroit’s interest is a little surprising. They already have a very good small forward on the roster in Tayshaun Prince, so unless they’re planning to play Turkoglu at the four, someone is going to lose some minutes. Of the two teams, the Pistons have more cap space, so if they want him, they can get him. (And what about Ben Gordon?)

Charlie V ahead of Turkoglu on the Pistons’ wishlist?

Chicago’s Ben Gordon remains the backcourt player deeply coveted by the Pistons, but the prospect of a Gordon-and-Villanueva combo likely would be slightly cheaper than trying to sign Gordon and Turkoglu with Detroit’s nearly $19 million in projected salary-cap space.

The Pistons may also be interested in Paul Millsap, but anytime a team signs a restricted free agent to an offer sheet, that money is tied up for a week while his current team decides to match. That makes signing an RFA a dicey prospect.

I wonder if the Bucks are regretting letting Villanueva given the amount of interest he’s generating from their division rivals (Detroit and Cleveland).

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