SALT LAKE CITY -- After days of speculation, the Utah Jazz
finally got two things they wanted in writing.
Boozer, who became a restricted free agent when Cleveland made a
controversial decision not to pick up his third-year option, signed
an offer sheet with the Jazz early Wednesday. He will officially
join Utah if Cleveland doesn't match the offer in 15 days, which
Cavs owner Gordon Gund said he has no intention of doing.
"I think he saw an opportunity and took advantage of it as far
as us needing a position and having money," said Jazz vice
president for basketball operations Kevin O'Connor.
O'Connor worked through the night to finalize the deal with
Boozer and another with Detroit center Mehmet Okur, who also signed
an offer sheet Wednesday. If Cleveland and Detroit don't match the
offers, the Jazz will have two emerging players in the two
positions where they need help the most.
The Jazz had plenty of money to go after free agents and owner
Larry Miller gave O'Connor the green light to be aggressive, a
strategy that failed last year when Utah got two restricted free
agents to sign offers that were matched.
Cleveland doesn't have the money under the salary cap to match
Boozer's six-year, $68 million offer. The Cavaliers would have to
do some major overhauling to keep the 22-year-old forward, who
averaged 15.5 points and 11.4 rebounds last season.
And if the Cavs do come up with a way to keep Boozer, he may not
feel terribly welcome back in Cleveland. The Cavs have maintained
they had a verbal agreement in place with Boozer to work out a
Boozer has denied there was an agreement, although he did tell
The Associated Press at the beginning of the free-agency period
that he planned to stay in Cleveland.
Gund posted a letter to fans on the team's Web site explaining
Cleveland's side of the story.
"In the final analysis, I decided to trust Carlos and show him
the respect he asked for. He did not show that trust and respect in
return. That's what happened," Gund's letter said.
Boozer could not be reached for comment and he is no longer
represented by agent Rob Pelinka, who worked out the deal with the
Jazz. O'Connor said Boozer had to get a lawyer to look over the
final contract before signing it.
The maximum Cleveland could offer Boozer in a new contract would
be nearly $30 million less than the Jazz deal.
As difficult as it would be for Cleveland to keep Boozer,
O'Connor was holding off getting too excited. Last summer Utah
signed restricted free agents Corey Maggette and Jason Terry and
both deals were matched.
"Until they're our players, I don't want to get into discussing
who they are and what they are. We've got to wait 15 days,"
It's already been a big summer for Boozer, who was also selected
for the U.S. Olympic team last week.
Detroit is also not expected to try to keep Okur, whose offer is
reportedly worth $50 million over six years. The 7-foot Turk
averaged 9.6 points and 5.9 rebounds in his second NBA season.
Detroit got an agreement with Antonio McDyess and was trying to
re-sign unrestricted free agent Rasheed Wallace.
After losing John Stockton to retirement at the end of the
2002-03 season and Karl Malone's decision to leave for the Los Angeles Lakers last summer, Utah was widely expected to be one of
the worst teams in the league. But the Jazz were one of the
surprises of the season, finishing at 42-40 and just missing the
That success, O'Connor said, was a key to bringing in free
agents to a market that's been labeled as undesirable because of
the state's conservative reputation.
Coach Jerry Sloan was sticking with his usual stance, despite
knowing he was likely to have two inside scoring threats the Jazz
lacked last season.
"I don't worry about any of those things until they're here --
until we see them out here on the floor," he said. "There will be
competition. There may be guaranteed contracts, but there's no
guaranteed jobs. And that's the thing that players have to come in
The Jazz also got one of their own restricted free agents to
re-sign on Wednesday. Carlos Arroyo, who got a one-year contract
last summer, took over for Stockton as the starting point guard and
averaged 12.6 and five assists per game. He was rewarded with a
four-year deal worth a reported $16 million.
Before last season, Arroyo had played only limited time in two
NBA seasons with the Jazz, Denver and Toronto.
"I have achieved a dream that I've had since I was a kid,"
Arroyo said of his first long-term deal.