Jazz: Boozer clarifies contract comments

'I'm a Jazzman' » To opt out, re-sign with Jazz would be 'beautiful,' he says.
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Soon after he returned Thursday from an MRI exam to determine what's wrong with his injured left knee, Carlos Boozer was on the phone trying to explain what's been going on in his head.

Specifically, how what he described as a "casual conversation" with an ESPN.com reporter concerning the opt-out clause in his contract for the 2009-10 season turned into a controversy to rival the winter storm bearing down on Detroit.

Boozer attempted to clarify his thinking about the opt out, saying it all came down to "stability" as a player. If he opts out of his contract, Boozer would become an unrestricted free agent this summer and could sign with any team.

"Obviously, I'll look at my options," Boozer said, "but the smart thing for me is to opt out and instead of having a one-year deal, with the possibility of having a six-year deal."

The timing of Boozer's comments was more remarkable than the substance. The All-Star forward has missed 15 games and counting with a strained quadriceps tendon and declared before training camp that he would not address his free-agent future during the season.

Instead, Boozer told ESPN.com after Wednesday victory in New Jersey that he was opting out and added, "No matter what, I'm going to get a raise regardless."

Jazz owner Larry Miller, in his weekly radio appearance on KFNZ 1320 AM, called Boozer's comments "one of the top 10 stupidest things I've ever heard an NBA player do in 24 years."

"Carlos knows better," Miller added. "He told [Jazz general manager] Kevin [O'Connor] he just screwed up, but that doesn't fix it, so what do the fans think now?"

Talking to reporters in a conference call, Boozer said his only focus was on getting healthy. He was asked if he feared his commitment to the team would be called into question after the report.

"They shouldn't, they shouldn't," Boozer said. "I'm a Jazzman. Obviously, I've been an integral part of getting this team back to the level that we are and hopefully leading us to a championship level."

He added that opting out only to re-sign with the Jazz "would be a beautiful thing, especially if we're able to keep the pieces around us and have a chance to win a championship."

If Boozer opts out, the Jazz could sign him to a contract worth as much as $130 million for six years, though such a deal likely would raise luxury-tax concerns. The most another team could offer would be approximately $100 million for five years.

The Jazz can re-sign Boozer even though they are over the salary cap, while another team would need $17 million in cap space to offer a maximum-value contract. The Jazz also could agree to sign-and-trade Boozer to another team for players or draft picks.

Boozer originally signed a six-year, $68 million contract with the Jazz in 2004. He is due to make $12.7 million for the 2009-10 season.

Both Boozer and his agent, Rob Pelinka, have consistently voiced a desire to remain in Utah, according to the Jazz. Boozer echoed that Thursday: "In light of the conversations that we have had, it's been about me staying and them wanting me to stay here."

With his comments Wednesday, Boozer might have increased the pressure on the Jazz to consider a trade if they fear losing him with nothing in return as a free agent. But Boozer said he didn't think such a scenario was likely.

"In every conversation I have, that's not what they're going to do," Boozer said. "Obviously, we've seen things happen in the past with other teams, other organizations, but I haven't got any indication at all that they want to trade me. I don't anticipate that at all."

While the Jazz practiced at Oakland University, Boozer was undergoing his second MRI exam since he was injured Nov. 19. Deron Williams called the timing of Boozer's comments "a little odd" but said the decision to opt out would be expected.

After signing a maximum contract extension last summer, Williams was asked what assurances he received from management about re-signing Boozer.

"I've known they want to keep us together," Williams said. "They don't have to assure me of that. Carlos is a huge part of this team. They didn't have to say anything to me. I know they want to get that done."

Boozer, meanwhile, is not expected to play tonight against the Pistons. He said he hoped the stir he caused wouldn't be a distraction for a team still fighting injuries and trying to close out a winning pre-Christmas trip.

"We already have enough on our plate," Boozer said.


Explaining the opt out

1. When Boozer signed his six-year, $68 million contract with the Jazz in 2004, the final season contained an opt-out clause. Should Boozer exercise the opt out, he becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season. He is due to earn $12.7 million in 2009-10.

2. Under NBA salary cap rules, the Jazz can offer Boozer a bigger contract for more years than any other team. A maximum-value contract in Boozer's case would cost the Jazz approximately $130 million for six years.

3. Boozer, however, could sign with any team of his choosing. The most another team could offer would be about $100 million for five years. The Jazz can re-sign Boozer even though they are over the salary cap, but another team would need significant cap space.

4. If the Jazz and Boozer decide to part ways, they could work out a sign-and-trade. Boozer would get a six-year contract and then be traded to another team, with the Jazz receiving players and/or draft picks in return.