Part of the Jazz's future is now wonderfully clear. The rest remains terribly blurry.
Deron Williams' contract extension is the centerpiece of the Jazz's 2008 offseason, a $50 million (or more) development that gives the point guard and his team some security. Of course, everybody knew Williams was going to re-sign with the Jazz this month.
So the only trouble with this resolution it is leaves so many other issues unanswered. Everything's cloudy regarding the long-term futures of center Mehmet Okur and forwards Carlos Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko, thanks to the team's obvious inability to pay all of them at market value forever.
Williams may address some of those matters today in his celebratory news conference, having undoubtedly lobbed some questions at Jazz officials during their recent talks. The first question asked of him, certainly, will be this: Why did he select only three years (plus an option for fourth year), when he could have secured himself for five years?
I tend to view Williams' choice as an expression of confidence in his ability to increase his value in the coming years, as opposed to treating it as strictly a referendum on the team's future. It has simply become the thing to do for young stars in the NBA. Once his friend and natural rival, New Orleans' Chris Paul, went the three-year route, I would have been shocked if Williams had done anything different.
Conversely, having made only a so-so splash in the league as the No. 1 pick in that 2005 draft, former University of Utah center Andrew Bogut made a sound decision in signing for the full five years with Milwaukee.
Williams' deal will begin in 2009 and at least take him through the 2011-12 season. Right now, I would love to fast-forward a few years and find out what the Jazz will look like - with the list of questions including who will be owning, coaching and managing this team, besides the little issues of who will be playing the four positions surrounding Williams.
D-Will himself has to be wondering, which further justifies his decision to take the shorter contract. Some of those dilemmas likely will resolve themselves in the upcoming season, before Williams' new deal even takes effect. Others will linger.
Yet while the auxiliary issues will hang over everybody's heads indefinitely, Williams deserves his big moment today. Other than a few players whose jerseys are retired, he has done as much in his first three seasons with the Jazz as anyone in team history - and he has topped some of the all-time stars, including John Stockton. Williams' rise has been fun to watch. From the struggles of a rookie season when he rightly or wrongly was held back by coach Jerry Sloan, to the stunning improvement of his second year when the Jazz reached the Western Conference finals and his selection as a U.S. Olympian this summer, he has grown up in front of us. He's a team leader, a dependable spokesman and a fan favorite.
The blossoming really began two years ago, when Williams willingly participated in the team's summer camp after his rookie season and played in two Rocky Mountain Revue games, before leaving to attend the birth of his second child. Suddenly, he was becoming everything the Jazz had hoped when they maneuvered to make him the No. 3 pick in the draft. He's a genuine star now, and he's about to be paid like it. The tricky part, going forward, involves who among his current teammates will get the Jazz's leftover money.
* KURT KRAGTHORPE can be reached at email@example.com. To write a letter about this or any sports topic, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.