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Open season

With the summer free-agent negotiating season upon them, will Miller and Co. jump in with both feet or stand pat?

Late Saturday night, Jazz brass started shopping.

The NBA's summer free-agent negotiating period officially opened, calls were made and between now and July 10 — when contracts can first be officially signed — commitments will be secured.

Yet while they may indeed make a purchase or two before all is said and done, it's likelier than not that the Jazz — Western Conference finalists in 2007 — will wind up starting next season by turning to many of the closet's comfy and familiar favorites.

"As we went around the whole thing and looked at free agents and everything," Larry H. Miller said in describing the franchise's recent offseason planning meeting, "in the end I think this year's team may look more like the prior year's team than any team since I've been in the league.

"I really expect that."

That is not to say Utah's roster will be exactly as it was when the Jazz were bounced from the playoffs by the eventual league-champion San Antonio Spurs.

In fact, it's already been altered with Thursday's addition of first-round draft choice Morris Almond.

But it does suggest the club is more prone to keeping things intact than shaking them up.

"I don't think all 13 faces will be there ... but it's gonna look a lot like last year's team, I'll tell you that," Miller said.

The Jazz owner quickly offered an addendum: "Unless something crazy happens in free agency." And then another: "But I don't expect that to happen."

What Miller does know for certain is that the Jazz are willing to re-sign No. 3 point guard Dee Brown and reserve shooting guard C.J. Miles, now restricted free agents who were expended qualifying offers Friday.

If either receives a more-lucrative offer elsewhere, the Jazz may or may not match. But they do seem to genuinely want both back.

Ditto for No. 3 center Rafael Araujo, an unrestricted free agent.

Beyond that — especially with starters Deron Williams, Derek Fisher, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur all now expected to be back — any addition is likely to be complementary rather than play a primary role.

Miller said the Jazz will shop to see "if there was a way to get a player — I'm gonna say kind of a journeyman veteran, who, you know, can come in ... and lend a stability and an experience level — that can give us 15 minutes (per game) at probably a 3-4-5 (position), most likely."

They'll do so as one of league's many teams that are already over the league's team payroll salary cap, which was $53.135 million last season and will grow to about $56.8 million if trends continue.

Utah has nearly $59 million in guaranteed salary committed for the 2007-08 season, has extended another almost $2 million in qualifying offers to Brown and Miles, and has approximately $1 million more ticketed for soon-to-be-signed Almond.

Yet the Jazz, much like most of the competition, still have several purchase-power tools at their disposal.

They can add a free agent (or more) by spending all or part of their mid-level cap exception (a multi-year deal that does not exceed approximately $5.5 million in first-year salary), by using their bi-annual exception (a deal for no more than two years beginning at $1.83 million next season), by signing a player to a one- or two-year deal at scale minimum (ranges from $427,163 to $1,219,590, depending on experience) or by making an acquisition via a sign-and-trade involving one more other teams and one or more current Jazz players.

"You know, we've really kind of avoided (signing a role-playing veteran) on purpose the last two or three years — just because we didn't want to keep adding two or three 33-year-old guys every year just to keep making the playoffs," Miller said. "But I think now we're probably back in the mode, where that's really what we need.

"We need some ability and experience, and not just a warm body," he added, "because we've got enough of those."

Potential translation: think Danny Manning coming to Utah in 2000, or Calbert Cheaney coming in 2002.

As for who that might be this year, it remains to be seen.

Prior to Thursday's draft, Toronto's Morris Peterson was believed to be a potential target. Charlotte free-agent sharpshooter Matt Carroll also is known to have been a subject of Jazz interest in the past.

Jazz basketball operations senior vice president Kevin O'Connor, however, refused to comment Friday when asked how Utah's selection of Almond might impact their previously expected inclination to seek a shooting guard in the open market.

"We'll be aggressive in the free-agent market," O'Connor said. "We're trying to improve the team. (But) we're not going to spend money if we're not going to improve the team."

The credit cards aren't cut up, in other words, but for now they're apparently tucked safely in the wallet.

Ready, set, shop . . .

A look at just some of the 125-plus free agents now available in the NBA's summer shopping market:


Rashard Lewis

Gerald Wallace

Mo Williams


Chauncey Billups

Vince Carter

Fabricio Oberto


Andres Nocioni

Darko Milicic

Anderson Varejao


Rafael Araujo

Dee Brown (r)

C.J. Miles (r)


Matt Barnes

Matt Carroll

Desmond Mason

Chris Mihm

Morris Peterson


Louis Amundson (r)

Devin Brown

Randy Livingston

Keith McLeod

Mikki Moore

Greg Ostertag

Sasha Pavlovic (r)

Michael Ruffin

DeShawn Stevenson

Jacque Vaughn


Scot Pollard

Ronnie Price (r)

Keith Van Horn


Theo Papalouskas

* (r): restricted, meaning most-recent team has right to match any signed offer sheet

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com