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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NBA Rumors: Boozer, Gay, Monta and Rubio

Mavs interested in Boozer?

Add the Dallas Mavericks to the list of NBA teams that were — and perhaps still are — interested in acquiring trade-craving Carlos Boozer.

Boozer has also been rumored to be heading to New York as part of a sign-and-trade swap with David Lee.

Rudy Gay wants to stay in Memphis.

“I know what I can do on the basketball court,” Gay said. “Everything else will work itself out. I love Memphis. Memphis has been my home. This is where I want to be. I really believe this is where I can make big things happen for myself and the Grizzlies.

“I like what’s happened this summer. There was definitely a lot of thought put into this offseason with all the changes. I guess we’ll know more about what the changes mean when the season starts.”

GM Chris Wallace and Gay’s agent, Jeff Austin, haven’t gotten into specifics about what they believe to be Gay’s market value, and that’s where things usually get sticky. We’ll see if Gay’s goodwill continues as the extension negotiations continue.

Is Monta Ellis on the trading block? Yes, according to Warriors beat writer, Tim Kawakami.

Monta Ellis in Dallas? That I can see, if Dallas would send some short-term deals and if the Warriors would be happy taking a major talent hit just to dump Monta’s money.

For all the energy the Warriors have placed in telling us that Monta is their centerpiece and all the sweat issued to dispute my reports that he’s unhappy… well, I could very much see Don Nelson working hard to trade Ellis.

The Ellis-Golden State relationship has been heading south ever since Ellis’s moped accident. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Warriors traded him, though I could say that about anyone on the roster, other than Anthony Randolph, who appears to be untouchable.

Did GM David Kahn use a second round pick to help fund Rubio’s buyout?

On draft night, Kahn used a second-round pick to select Henk Norel, a European prospect whose selection had at least one ESPN draft analyst puzzled.

Norel also plays for DKV Joventut.

Might Kahn offer Rubio’s Spanish team $500,000 to buy out Norel’s contract, too, invite him to training camp and thus, in essence, fund $1 million of the buyout that way?

Kahn is in Spain again, trying to free Ricky.

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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Boozer may stay with the Jazz for another season

For a time, it seemed like it was inevitable that Carlos Boozer would opt out (or not opt in, in this case) and hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent. But the economic climate has changed and the market for his services does not appear to be as strong as it was once thought to be. Boozer might very well play another year in Utah.

Boozer has until 5 p.m. on Tuesday to decide whether to exercise a player option on his contract with the Utah Jazz. The contract is set to pay Boozer $12.7 million next season if he opts in. Could he make more than that on the open market?

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

The Jazz aren’t in a great position to re-sign him either. Utah has to sign another free agent, Paul Millsap, and possibly a second, Mehmet Okur, if he opts out of his contract. Okur’s agent told The Associated Press on Monday that his client was leaning toward opting out. Those two contracts would put the Jazz near the luxury tax threshold. It’s unlikely they would go over to re-sign Boozer.

“As soon as it looked like the Pistons were the only team with the money and desire to pay him,” one Eastern Conference GM said, “I knew Boozer would be changing his mind. Unless I knew for sure that the Pistons would pay me big bucks, you just can’t make that gamble. I fully expect him to be back with the Jazz next year.”

Earlier this week, I estimated Boozer’s market value at about $12-$13 million per season. I think that if he does opt out, he’d eventually get that kind of a contract because a team willing to spend would work out a sign-and-trade to acquire him. The problem there is that Utah would have to take on near-equal salary for the first year and that would potentially push them over the luxury tax threshold (assuming Mehmet Okur returns and the Jazz sign Paul Millsap to a lucrative deal).

Assuming the Pistons don’t step up with a deal averaging $10-$11 million, Boozer’s absolute worst case is signing a one-year mid-level deal (~$5.8 million), which would cost him about $7 million this season. If he plays another year in Utah, he’ll have the opportunity to prove that he can stay healthy and would join the vaunted free agent class of 2010, where there will be a greater market for his services. Teams are saving up for that summer, so Boozer would be a nice consolation prize for those teams hoping to add Chis Bosh or Amare Stoudemire.

The downside of staying in Utah for another season is the lack of the security. Is it better to sign a five-year deal at a discount (say, $11 million per season) and have a guaranteed $55 million or play another year in Utah and risk a career-ending injury for the prospect of signing for an extra $10-$15 million in 2010? There’s a saying — a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

This is the quandary that Boozer is in today. It’s a tough call.

His decision is due in a few hours.

Will the Jazz trade Carlos Boozer?

With regard to Carlos Boozer’s future in Utah, Johnny Ludden of Yahoo Sports writes that the Utah Jazz “are expected to explore trading him and devote their resources to keeping Paul Millsap.”

Boozer angered franchise officials and teammates alike early in the season, when he spoke openly of wanting to test his free agency this summer. It didn’t help that he made the comments while he was nursing a quadriceps injury that cost him more than half the season.

After Monday’s season-ending loss, Boozer now says he’d like to return to the Jazz, adding that he feels like “one of those cornerstone people who brought this team back to prominence.” In truth, the decision might not be entirely up to him. Even if Boozer doesn’t opt out of his contract, the Jazz are expected to explore trading him and devote their resources to keeping Paul Millsap.

As if the Jazz needed any more evidence of Millsap’s value, he helped lead Monday’s comeback while Boozer watched from the bench.

“We’re not getting that effort every night from everybody,” [Deron] Williams said, “and we’ve got to have that.”

I may be wrong, but this sounds like the general feeling of the writer more than the actual position of the club. The key phrase is that “the Jazz are expected,” which only means that some nebulous person or persons is of the opinion that Utah will explore trading Boozer in order to keep Millsap. It doesn’t mean that that’s what the franchise is planning to do.

This summer’s free agent market is going to be tough on the players, so even though Boozer has previously stated that he plans to opt out, he may ultimately decide to play out the final year of his contract in order to prove to teams that he can stay healthy. Other than the Jazz, there are five teams that have the cap space to make an offer of $10 million per season or more — the Pistons, the Hawks, the Grizzles, the Raptors and the Thunder. He’d certainly help make the Thunder a playoff team, and he’d be a good fit in Detroit with their current problems along the front line. The Grizzlies have the need, but may not be willing to make the commitment. The Hawks don’t really need a power forward, but the Raptors could certainly use him as a complement to Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon (and it might ultimately keep Bosh in Toronto).

In addition to Boozer, Mehmet Okur ($9.0 million) and Kyle Korver ($5.3 million) can each terminate their contracts early this summer, so the Jazz might have a very different face heading into the 2009-10 season. My guess is that Okur and Korver will play out their contracts since they are unlikely to find that kind of money in free agency. Boozer is set to make $12.3 million next season, so he’ll probably be looking for a deal averaging somewhere in the range of $13-$15 million. But with his history of injury, will anyone be willing to pony up?

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