by Marcel Mutoni @marcel_mutoni

For the Utah Jazz ownership group, the team is only the fourth-largest revenue generator in their stable of businesses. And depending on how this NBA lockout turns out, they may have to consider selling the franchise.

According to the Deseret News, economics might force the Jazz to go on the market, despite the late team owner’s vehement objections to such a thing:

Everybody wants basketball to be played, not delayed by a labor mess. But even if it brings pro hoops back sooner than later, an unfavorable collective bargaining resolution for Utah could adversely affect the organization as it tries to maintain a tradition of winning despite market-size challenges.

In fact, one source with intimate knowledge of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies’ inner workings speculated that small-market-related economic hardships could force Jazz ownership to place a “For Sale” sign on the franchise. The source told the Deseret News that the Jazz were expected to report losses in the $17 million range for the 2010-11 season. “If I was a betting man,” the source said, “my guess is that the Millers will sell the team within the next five years, unless this CBA changes the formula so that the team can make some money.”

Others say the Millers will never sell the Jazz. The late Larry H. Miller viewed the Jazz as a “community gift” to Utah. The self-made entrepreneur once put it like this, “Selling the Jazz would be like selling Canyonlands.”

The owners of the Utah Jazz, should they decide to sell, would be in line for enormous gains: the team was bought in 1986 by Larry H. Miller for $24 million. According to Forbes magazine, it’s now worth an estimated $343 million.

Not a bad profit margin for a team that claims to be losing money, huh?