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Jazz opt against trades, likely gearing up for big off-season

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Associated Press
2/21/2013 4:13:08 PM
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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah general manager Dennis Lindsey said the Jazz had plenty of opportunities to make a deal before Thursday's trading deadline.

"We just said, 'No,"' Lindsey said.

His comments came a few hours after the deadline passed without the Jazz dealing either power forward Paul Millsap or centre Al Jefferson, leaving intact a team that is seven games above .500 entering the stretch run toward the playoffs.

Lindsey said when any offer was added up, "It wasn't any better than what we had" as the team looked with an eye toward the future.

Lindsey called the Jazz "playoff competitive" just not "championship calibre."

Yet.

Millsap and Jefferson had been considered trade bait because of their expiring contracts. The team has five other players with expiring contracts, plus estranged shooting guard Raja Bell, who has not been with the squad all season after battling last year with head coach Tyrone Corbin.

The 6-foot-8 Millsap was considered the most expendable, not because he wasn't producing but because third-year pro Derrick Favours is waiting in the wings.

Millsap has started all 55 games for the Jazz this season, averaging 15 points and 7.4 rebounds.

Favours, 21, is averaging 9.4 points and 6.2 rebounds and is the team's top shot-blocker with 70.

Lindsey cited a quote by another Jazz exec, Kevin O'Connor.

"When they say you should make a trade is probably when you shouldn't," Lindsey said. "We're not here to win a press conference."

And he didn't want to do a deal just to say he did a deal in his first season as Jazz GM.

"We decided the incumbent position was the strongest now and going forward," Lindsey said. "We'll see if we're right or wrong."

The Jazz certainly had options Thursday, and will have even more this summer though they risk losing both Millsap and Jefferson.

Jefferson's contract this season pays him $15 million, and he is considered one of the elite big men in the league.

How much more could he earn on the open market?

A bigger question for the Jazz is whether his backup, 20-year-old Enes Kanter, is ready to fill his shoes.

Jefferson, 28, leads the Jazz in scoring (17.7 points) and rebounding (9.4).

Kanter is averaging 6.3 points and 4.1 rebounds in 14 minutes.

Lindsey said the team didn't really have that many "tough" trade decisions.

This summer may be a different story.

Utah has only $25 million committed toward salaries next season. That includes a team option on seldom-used rookie Kevin Murphy and a $7.5 million player option for small forward Marvin Williams.

Point guard Mo Williams, out since late December with a thumb injury, can take a deep breath for now. But he also is a free agent after the season.

Corbin said earlier this week that he loves every player with the team, calling them "Utah Jazz kind of players."

Utah has won three straight and 12 of its last 17 to pull within percentage points of sixth place in the Western Conference playoff race behind Golden State.

The Jazz held it together despite being without Mo Williams for nearly two months. Playmaker Gordon Hayward only returned Tuesday after missing 10 games with a sprained right shoulder.

Guard Randy Foye, who has helped Utah with his 3-point shooting, said the team believes it can reach the No. 4 spot in the West and gain home-court advantage in the playoffs.

Lindsey can only hope.

"We have a strong group, with chemistry that's getting stronger," Lindsey said. "We've got to take it to another level competitively."

Paul Millsap (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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