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 What if Boozer stays?

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PostSubject: What if Boozer stays?   Mon Aug 10, 2009 8:55 pm

Maybe Carlos Boozer should put the Realtor on hold, cancel the moving van and stick the change-of-address cards back in his desk drawer.

He might be staying after all.
While the Jazz are still listening to other teams' offers for their All-Star power forward -- and will continue to do so -- general manager Kevin O'Connor isn't in a maniacal rush to trade Boozer.

With only six weeks remaining before training camp, it's possible Boozer will start the season in Utah -- not Chicago, Miami or any other preferred destination.

O'Connor offers only a "no comment" when asked about the prospects of trading Boozer before camp.

Discussing the possibility of Boozer's return to Utah, however, O'Connor is slightly more candid.

Leaning forward from behind his desk deep within EnergySolutions Arena, O'Connor said: "He's got a contract and we expect him to fulfill the contract. It's as simple as that."

In June, Boozer opted into the final year of his deal with the Jazz . He will make $12.7 million next season.

Only days later, Boozer went on the radio in Chicago and Miami, spoke of a "mutual agreement" with the Jazz that he would be traded and said the Bulls and Heat were high on his list of prospective new teams.

Along the way, Boozer created hard feelings in Utah -- certainly among fans and possibly among his teammates -- although O'Connor remains confident that the Jazz -Boozer marriage can be salvaged should he return for what would be a curious 2009-10 season.

"The only thing we concern ourselves with is that he's professional," O'Connor said. "He's in the last year of his contract. It behooves him to play well and it would be good for us if he plays well."

Easier said than done?

Perhaps, according to ex- Jazz center Mark Eaton, who played 11 seasons before retiring in 1993.

"He's dug a bit of a hole for himself, letting everyone know he wants to leave," Eaton said. "If a deal is not imminent, he's going to have to re-engage the fans with his play and his effort -- to dig himself out of that hole."

Eaton has fewer concerns whether Jazz players like Deron Williams, Memo Okur and Andrei Kirilenko could again accept Boozer or not, who during one radio interview said he played well during a first-round playoff loss to the Lakers but that his teammates "fell short."

"In the locker room ... I think he'll be fine because players have a better perspective that it's a business and he was doing what he needs to do. ..." Eaton said. "The players probably have a better perspective on that than most fans do."

Eaton remembers the well-publicized offseason confrontations between Jazz owner Larry Miller and Karl Malone in the 1990s.

"If you look back at the whole Larry-Karl relationship, you see all the engagements they had," Eaton said. "But once the summer was over, they were able to put any differences behind them. We, as players, knew that was part of their relationship. So we could just go play ball."

Of course, Malone helped everyone re-connect with his passion for the game and his performance on the court. He missed 10 games during 18 seasons with the Jazz .

During Boozer's time in Utah, he has missed almost one of every three regular-season games because of injuries.

"Karl always showed up in great shape ... and let his game do his talking," Eaton said. "That's something Carlos would have to consider. I think he'd have to say, 'I said what I needed to say and now it's time to go play.' "

Matt Harpring, who has been Boozer's teammate for the last five seasons, agrees with Eaton.

"It's a matter of professionalism when you are at this level," Harpring said. "I've been on a lot of teams where people have said a lot of things in the summer time. But when it comes down to winning games -- once you have your team [together] -- you have to be professional and try to win.

"That's the bottom line in this league -- winning -- and you want to give yourself the best chance of that. You've got to believe, with Carlos or without Carlos, we can still win."

Tom Nissalke, a former NBA Coach of the Year who guided the Jazz for 21/2 seasons, believes Boozer's on-court performance would be the key to his reception by fans and teammates.

Referring to the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez and his first game after admitted steroid use, Nissalke said, "If Boozer comes back, I think the same thing will happen that happened with A-Rod.

"When he was announced the first time, there was a crescendo of boos. But on the first pitch -- boom -- he hits it over the wall. Those people didn't even get a chance to sit down before he changed their mind."

Nissalke doesn't believe that Boozer would have a problem with coach Jerry Sloan.

"A coach never puts a player in the doghouse; players put themselves in the doghouse," Nissalke said. "Coaches are under such pressure, they can't afford to put guys in the doghouse. ... Most coaches I know would play the devil, if he thought the devil could help him win."

In fact, Boozer's role as a 35-minute-per-game starter and primary low-post scorer wouldn't change, despite the off-season of discontent.

"If he comes back, Jerry will start him," Nissalke said. "And if he gets 28 points and 12 rebounds, a majority of people will say, 'Wow, I'm glad he's here.' "

Asked if Boozer can coexist with Paul Millsap, who just re-signed with the Jazz for four years and $32 million, Nissalke said, "I'm a big Millsap fan. I think he can become an All-Star. But if Boozer comes back, he'll start. ...

"The No. 1 thing -- I learned this a long time ago -- is there's no substitute for talent. And Boozer is an extremely talented player. If you ask most coaches right now if they'd rather have Boozer or Millsap, nine out of 10 would say, 'Boozer.' "

If Nissalke coached the Jazz and Boozer returned, what would he say the first day of training camp?

"I'd welcome him back," Nissalke said. "I'd tell him, 'We know you have a desire to be traded and we'll do the best we can. But we can't let a player of your ability go for a lesser player. It will hurt our team and hurt our franchise. So it's in your best interest to play like an All-Star.' ... I'd make sure he knew we wanted him to do well." Alt Heads:

What if Carlos Boozer stays with the Jazz ? The Jazz's options concerning Boozer

The Jazz get an offer they like -- either before the start of training camp in September or early in the season -- and trade the final year of Boozer's $12.7 million contract to another team.

The Jazz keep Boozer for the first three months of the season but, because they are not contending and fear he will eventually walk away without the team getting any compensation, deal him just before the NBA trade deadline.

The Jazz keep Boozer and, because they are playing well and contending at the trade deadline, keep him until the end of the season. He becomes an unrestricted free agent and re-signs with Utah or another team in the summer of 2010.

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