LOS ANGELES — The holiday season just ended. The NBA trade talk season is just beginning.
On Friday, the Utah Jazz were involved in some of the chatter.
The Jazz and Cavaliers are reportedly exploring a deal to exchange Utah small forward Richard Jefferson for Cleveland center Andrew Bynum, according to an ESPN report.
The Cavs are trying to unload Bynum, whose $12.3 million contract becomes fully guaranteed on Tuesday. If the center, currently suspended from Cleveland, is waived before Wednesday, $6 million of his salary will come off the books, per ESPN.
Utah would likely waive Bynum to gain some salary relief along with possibly gaining other assets in a potential deal with Cleveland. The Cavs have also been trying to ship Bynum off to Los Angeles in exchange for Pau Gasol, according to multiple reports.
Jefferson is the Jazz’s highest-paid player this year. He’s making $11 million in the final year of his deal, which expires at the end of the season.
“We have no comment,” Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said.
Coach Tyrone Corbin said the team has become accustomed to dealing with the rumor mill this time of year. Like last season, the Jazz have a handful of players in the final year of their contracts, making them valuable commodities in trades. This year’s group of veteran free agents-to-be includes Jefferson, Marvin Williams, Brandon Rush and Andris Biedrins.
“The theme is the same. We are their family and their team right now,” Corbin said. “That’s all we can control, and you work to be as good as you can be now and try not to have the guys looking over their shoulders. There’s going to be talk.”
Corbin also acknowledged the fact that the Jazz have multiple players with nonguaranteed contracts. Utah has a week to determine whether or not to keep guard Diante Garrett and forward Mike Harris as all contracts become guaranteed for the season on Jan. 10.
“The guarantee date’s coming up, so that talk’s going to be there,” Corbin said. “You want to make your players feel as comfortable and relaxed while they’re here until anything else happens, so they can play and we can be as good as we can be.”
Corbin, who played in the NBA for 16 years before his coaching career, admitted it’s hard for people to separate fact from fiction. It’s also hard, he added, because players and their families see and hear all the talk.
“I’ve been in those situations as a player. I know it’s uncomfortable,” Corbin said. ”You try to put it out of your mind, all the talk and speculation from guys where you don’t know where it’s coming from. They try to make it sound like it’s coming out of your franchise. It’s really not, but it’s there.”
The ESPN report claimed that Utah's demands "would be far more modest" than what the Lakers are hoping to acquire from Cleveland for Bynum. That's because, as NBA writers Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst wrote, "Jefferson, at 33, has essentially been a role player for the past five seasons after a long run as a slashing scorer in both New Jersey and Milwaukee." The Cavs are hoping to improve their small forward play, and Jefferson is shooting 41.7 percent from 3-point land.
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