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Luhm: NBA trade deadline can produce last-minute drama
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Every time I see Jazz assistant Jeff Hornacek, I am reminded of the uncertainty that surrounds the annual NBA trade deadline which, this year, is Thursday.

It's a great time to be a reporter. Rumors are flying, teams chart their course for the future and playing careers change in a heartbeat.

Hornacek knows.

On Feb. 24, 1994, I thought I had finished a long day of working the telephone and staying on top of any possible trade the Jazz might make.

It was 6:45 p.m. — 15 minutes before the deadline. I called my wife and told her to plan on the dinner date I'd promised if the Jazz didn't make any trades.

I gathered the belongings at my desk in the old Tribune building and made two more quick calls, just to make sure nothing was happening.

As I was literally walking toward the door, however, the phone rang again.

Goodbye, dinner.

Against every indication, then-GM Scott Layden had pulled the trigger — just minutes before the deadline ­— on one of the most significant trades in franchise history.

In exchange for Jeff Malone and a late first-round draft pick, Layden acquired Hornacek, throw-in Sean Green and a future second-round pick.

Nobody knew it at the time, but the Jazz had just traded for the vital third member of a Karl Malone-John Stockton foundation — somebody who would help lead Utah to two conference finals and two NBA Finals over the next five seasons.

This year?

I would not be surprised, for two reasons, if the Jazz made another deadline-beating deal.

No. 1: They are not exactly the Miami Heat, even though they seem headed in the right direction with a young core of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks.

No. 2: General manager Kevin O'Connor has always shown a willingness to make changes he thinks will benefit his team. Trading players isn't something he relishes, but it's something he'll do.

I don't believe the Jazz will trade any of the youngsters O'Connor has worked so hard to acquire in the last two years.

Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Devin Harris could go, but all are playing well right now. They also have one year left on their contracts, which will be worth nearly $32 million in 2012-13.

Unless O'Connor comes up with a blockbuster and needs his biggest pieces to close the deal, Jefferson, Millsap and Harris are more likely to be traded next year, when their contracts will be expiring.

The Jazz player perched most precariously on the upcoming trade bubble, it seems, is C.J. Miles.

The four-year, $14.8 million contract he signed in 2008 is expiring. Given his decreased production in a suddenly limited role lately, Miles might not want to come back.

In the days before the deadline, O'Connor could try to get something for Miles before he walks away next summer.

It's that time of year.

luhm@sltrib.com

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