Memo is gone, Jazz General Manager Kevin O'Connor continues to make major moves, and Utah's youth movement has officially begun.
The Jazz unexpectedly traded veteran reserve center Mehmet Okur to New Jersey on Thursday for a 2015 second-round pick and a trade exception. The exception is worth about $10 million, The Salt Lake Tribune learned, and is expected to expire in one year.
The Tribune was informed Okur was completely caught off guard by the deal and unhappy about having to suddenly leave Salt Lake City.
"It's a lousy time to conduct business," O'Connor said. "But the season's starting when it is, and there was a necessity to do it now."
The 32-year-old Okur will join former Jazz point guard Deron Williams with the Nets, filling in for center Brook Lopez, who suffered a broken right foot Thursday.
Okur's trade follows Utah's recent free-agent signings of Josh Howard, Earl Watson and Jamaal Tinsley. The Jazz's roster is set at 13 players five days before the team's 2011-12 season tips off Dec. 27 at the Los Angeles Lakers.
Okur's sudden departure signals the end of an era: Paul Millsap and C.J. Miles are the only holdovers from a 2006-07 Jazz team that advanced to the Western Conference Finals. Longtime Utah members such as Okur, Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson have left the organization in the past 18 months.
The Jazz were reluctant to trade Okur because he meant so much to the franchise. He was well-liked by his teammates, respected by his coaches and had long been a fan favorite. However, the combination of moving his $10.8 million expiring contract and the value of the trade exception made the deal difficult to pass up for a small-market organization entering the second stage of a rebuilding movement.
"He's been a professional, and he's grown up as a basketball player here," O'Connor said. "Hopefully he's going to a great opportunity to play a lot of minutes and increase his value in the league after being injured last year."
The Jazz received serious interest in Okur during the past year but held off making a deal until they found one that could improve the team over the long term. Utah has recently been involved in other trade talks as it attempts to upgrade its roster, but another deal is not imminent.
The Jazz used a trade exception in 2010 to acquire starting center Al Jefferson, while the Dallas Mavericks recently added forward Lamar Odom by sending an exception to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Larry Coon, an NBA salary cap expert and ESPN.com contributor, said the exception Utah acquired via Okur's trade will initially count toward the team's 2011-12 cap level. The Tribune reported last week the Jazz are expected to enter the season with a team payroll of about $64 million to $66 million, placing the franchise above the $58 million cap but below the $70 million luxury tax. The Jazz recently used part of their mid-level exception to sign Howard, adding depth at small forward.
Utah will now rely on Jefferson and rookie center Enes Kanter, the No. 3 overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, to hold down the center position. Second-year power forward Derrick Favors can also step up, while the Jazz have been impressed by the development and versatility of second-year forward Jeremy Evans.
"It's going to accelerate the process on the young players that we've invested in," O'Connor said.
The Jazz have four athletes 21 or younger Kanter, Favors, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks who were chosen No. 12 or higher during the past two drafts. In addition, Utah has a possible 2012 first-round pick from New Jersey.
The 6-foot-11, 260-pound Okur played seven seasons with Utah after joining the team during 2004 via free agency.
His best year was 2005-06, when he averaged 18.0 points and 9.1 rebounds while starting all 82 games. Okur was named an All-Star in 2007.
The Turkish native ruptured his left Achilles tendon in April 2010 during a first-round playoff series against Denver. He played only 13 games for Utah last season, attempting to come back too soon and dealing with a variety of nagging injuries.
Okur entered training camp for the 2011-12 season in 100-percent health. He was expected to be a key contributor off the bench for a rebuilding Utah team and started the Jazz's first preseason game Monday.
"You don't forget about things like he played when he was hurt when other guys wouldn't," O'Connor said.
Okur has averaged 13.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists during 617 career games (446 starts) with Detroit and Utah. He ranks fourth on the Jazz's all-time list in 3-pointers made (517), fifth in 3s attempted (1,358), and ninth in scoring (7,255), rebounding (3,599) and blocked shots (346).
Position • Center
Age • 32
Vitals • 6-foot-11, 260 pounds
Year • 9
Career • 13.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 46 pct FG, 37.7 pct 3pt (617 games)
With Jazz • 2004-11
Born • Yalova, Turkey
Highlights • 2007 All-Star, 2004 NBA champion
The Jazz traded veteran reserve center Mehmet Okur and his $10.8 million expiring contract to New Jersey on Thursday for a 2015 second-round pick and a trade exception.
The trade exception is worth about $10 million, The Tribune learned. NBA salary cap expert Larry Coon said the exception will initially count against the Jazz's 2011-12 payroll, which The Tribune reported last week was expected to be about $64 million to $66 million when the season started. Utah is expected to have one year to use the exception and can acquire any player on any team who falls within the tradeable limits of the exception. The Jazz added center Al Jefferson via an exception in 2010.
The 2006-07 Jazz
Record • 51-31
Playoffs • Lost 4-1 to San Antonio in Western Conference Finals
Coach • Jerry Sloan
Roster • Louis Amundson
*On 2011-12 team