Jazz looking to lottery

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Utah Jazz have a week before they can really start plotting their future.

The Jazz's season ended Monday night with a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, who swept Utah out of the second round of the NBA playoffs.

The disappointment of being swept was still apparent as the players reported less than 12 hours after the season ended to clean out their lockers and meet with team officials.

"It's not fun to walk away from a series when you've just been zapped four-zip," coach Jerry Sloan said. "I don't care who you are. In this business, if you accept that then I'd like to play against you."

The Jazz know there are some changes likely to come, but won't know until after next week's draft lottery what direction the team will take. Two-time All-Star forward Carlos Boozer will be an unrestricted free agent and Utah may not be able to afford to re-sign him.

General Manager Kevin O'Connor said the planning will really begin after next Tuesday's NBA draft lottery. Utah holds the New York Knicks' pick in the first round of the NBA draft. If the current order holds, the Jazz would be picking ninth in the draft.

If the Jazz get a lucky bounce, they could pick higher. Once the Jazz know where they're picking, then O'Connor said they can take a closer look at free agents -- including Boozer.

"The first move we'll see on the 18th is where we wind up in the draft," O'Connor said.

Shooting guard Kyle Korver is also headed for free agency. Both he and Boozer opted last summer to play out the final year of their contracts.

Utah's last three trips to the playoffs have ended with losses to the Lakers. The series has gotten shorter by one game each year and the frustration showed in All-Star point guard Deron Williams' postgame comment about Utah needing to make some changes to improve.

The Jazz have been good, but not Lakers-good.

"I was just saying I think we want to compete for the title, we have to add pieces. I see teams doing deals year after year and we stay the same. And we get the same results," Williams said Tuesday. "It wasn't a threat or anything like that. It was me being honest. If we want to compete for a title we need to make some moves."

What moves? Williams didn't have specifics. He was obviously frustrated after another loss to the Lakers and acknowledged the Jazz are still a young team that did get better in some areas.

"We fought through some things that have plagued us in the past. So I think we improved in those areas a lot," Williams said. "Every team is going to have some bumps along the road. As long as you limit those and don't allow them to become mountains, then you'll be all right."

Sloan said despite the gloomy mood Tuesday, it was still a pretty successful season, especially considering the Jazz were without two of their top players for nearly all of the playoffs.

Center Mehmet Okur ruptured his left Achilles' tendon in the playoff opener at Denver and forward Andrei Kirilenko didn't play until the final two games against the Lakers because of a calf strain that had bothered him for months.

The Jazz still knocked out the Nuggets and played the Lakers in three close losses before getting overwhelmed on Monday night.

"You wonder how things would have went if we had AK healthy and we had Memo," Boozer said. "It's hard to say what you need when you're missing two of your best players playing for you."

Boozer said he hadn't talked to his agent yet about the future. In order to return to Utah, he would probably have to take a pay cut and he's not likely to do that after averaging 19.5 points and more than 11 rebounds.

The Jazz signed Paul Millsap to a four-year, $32 million contract last summer. Millsap and Boozer were a strong combination at power forward, but an expensive one.

Utah also has a restricted free agent in rookie Wesley Matthews, who started the season as an undrafted free agent who was invited to training camp. He ended up making the team, played in every game and was a starter by mid-February.

Once the Jazz know whether they're looking at a top-10 pick or something higher if they luck out in the lottery, O'Connor said they will evaluate who they want back and what they can afford.

The Jazz went 53-29 in the regular season and were just a tiebreaker shy of claiming the Northwest Division title. Utah's 21-20 road record was the first time the Jazz won more than they lost away from home in nine years.

"We won 53 games and we were top six in the league as far as that goes," O'Connor said. "We do need to get better, but I also think our core is pretty darned good."

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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DOUG ALDEN sports writer


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