As Tuesday's are-you-with-us-or-not? deadline fast approaches, I find myself wondering whether anyone at all will be around to launch the next Jazz season.

Will this be a full-fledged NBA team, or will it end up looking like the cast of "The Last Man on Earth" with Deron Williams playing the lead?

Frankly, I'm going to have to defer to Dr. Seuss on this one. I've puzzled and puzzled 'til my puzzler is sore, and I still have problems figuring how they're going to make this work. On one hand, if they somehow keep all their free agents, they'll be well into luxury tax area — a land they once vowed not to enter. On the other hand, if all eight of their free agents leave, Salt Lake is going to look like a ghost town.

Wait, it already does look like a ghost town, but that's another story. At least we know there are some guarantees on rebuilding downtown.

I still contend the Jazz are a better team with Carlos Boozer than without. But I've finally concluded the most logical plan is to pray Boozer does opt out of his contract and finds another taker.

Otherwise, it's going to be really, really stuffy in the room.

By 10 p.m. Tuesday, players with an option to declare free agency must state their intentions. Only one of the Jazz's pending free agents is restricted (Paul Millsap). Boozer, Mehmet Okur and Kyle Korver have been holding everything up as they wait to declare whether they'll opt out.

The Jazz haven't been able to shop, because they didn't know what they needed to shop for.

Meanwhile, the rest of the league has been acting like Monty Hall on "Let's Make a Deal." Cleveland acquired the Big Aristotle himself, Shaquille O'Neal. That pairs him with the league's reigning MVP, LeBron James. Now Cavs' opponents will have to face the league's bulkiest player, as well as its best.

But the Cavaliers aren't the only ones firing shots across the bow of the Good Ship Competition. Orlando — which beat Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals — made an equally impressive move, trading for eight-time All-Star Vince Carter. Rumors say they're also going to make a bid for Rasheed Wallace.

San Antonio nabbed high scoring Richard Jefferson from Milwaukee, thus infusing youth into the league's oldest team.

Rumors have said the Rockets will send Tracy McGrady to Phoenix for Amare Stoudemire; others say Stoudemire will end up in Golden State.

Atlanta didn't make a monster deal, but it improve by adding Jamal Crawford in a trade. The Lakers? All you need to know about them is that Kobe Bryant says he's staying put.

So what are the Jazz doing during all this commotion, roasting hot dogs?

Not really. It's just that this Boozer business has jammed things up while they wait. They couldn't trade him, the way other teams traded players on draft day, because of the rules governing opt-out clauses.

Nevertheless, standing pat the rest of the summer doesn't seem an option.

"This team is going this way, this team's going the other way," said G.M. Kevin O'Connor, speaking of the league in general. "There's nobody in the middle."

In other words, you get better or you get worse.

Now we find Millsap — whom the Jazz have vowed to re-sign — wants approximately a 1,000 percent raise.

He must think he works for an oil company.

So it's going to be expensive keeping a guy everyone assumed would be staying.

Theoretically, the Jazz's three opt-out players could opt in. The team could still carry them until the February deadline, then do a salary dump to avoid luxury taxes, which are calculated at the end of the season.

That would just be deferring the suspense.

I'm hoping they get it over with now.

At the end of last season, I thought keeping the current group together would work OK. But that was before the Jazz's neighbors started putting in granite counter-tops and recessed lights and hot tubs. In other words, they upgraded.

Suddenly, the Jazz looked a little dated.

They need Boozer to be gone, then work on some Monty Hall-like deal-making. Sign Millsap, give Williams some love and go out and get better by signing free agents and trading here and there. The current group isn't going to be enough.

Don't call it cold and calculating. Call it keeping up with the Joneses.

Or in this case, catching up with the contenders.

e-mail: rock@desnews.com