SAN ANTONIO Carlos Boozer was given an opportunity to name his postseason favorite in the NBA's Western Conference.
He could have easily chosen the Jazz, who finished the regular season 54-28 and open first-round play Saturday night at Houston.
Instead, Utah's All-Star power forward paid homage to the team that handed the Jazz their worst defeat of the regular season a 29-point deficit, nine points more than in any other loss in Wednesday's finale.
"I think the championship still goes through the Spurs," Boozer said of defending NBA-champion San Antonio. "I have a great deal of respect from them."
Boozer did, however, leave the door ajar just a tad for the Jazz and others."But there's definitely some good, talented teams out there," he added, "and I think everybody will have a chance to get to the championship series."
JAZZ FANS: Six-of-six ESPN.com contributors J.A. Adande, Chris Broussard, Chad Ford, John Hollinger, Marc Stein and David Thorpe predict the Jazz will win its first-round series with the Rockets.
All predicted the series would go six games except Broussard, who sees the series going a full seven games.
And on Yahoo.com, analyst Kenny Smith gives the advantage to the Jazz over the Rockets in 5-of-5 categories: backcourt, frontcourt, bench, coaching and intangibles.Writes Smith of the Jazz: "Could be the best overall team in the West."
SURVEY: Voting is under way on USAToday.com for fans to pick the Jazz's five all-time greatest players, regardless of position.
The nominees: Thurl Bailey, Carlos Boozer, Adrian Dantley, Mark Eaton, Darrell Griffith, Jeff Hornacek, Jeff Malone, Karl Malone, Pete Maravich and John Stockton.Results will be published in the national newspaper and on the paper's Web site Thursday.
CHILL, CHARLES: After ex-Jazz guard DeShawn Stevenson of the Washington Wizards called Cleveland star LeBron James "overrated," TNT analyst Charles Barkley called the Wizards who for a third straight year will face the Cavaliers in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs "the dumbest team in the history of civilization."According to the Washington Post, Stevenson responded thusly: "Are we really going to listen to a guy who said (injured Rockets center) Yao Ming would not be an All-Star in this league? I mean, really. So who cares what he has to say? Tell Charles Barkley to chill and worry about other things. Don't worry about the Washington Wizards."
COACHING CAROUSEL: According to the New York Post, ex-Jazz and longtime New York Knicks point guard Mark Jackson a candidate to replace the embattled Isiah Thomas as head coach of the Knicks announced on the air Wednesday that he would not return after working three seasons on the YES Network as an TV analyst for New Jersey Nets games.
"This was going to be it, anyway (on YES)," Jackson, also an NBA analyst for ABC, told the Post. "With a wife and four kids in Los Angeles, every game is a road game."
The Post also reported that an unidentified source said former Indiana executive and new Knicks basketball boss Donnie Walsh "wanted to bring Jackson in for the last Pacers' (coaching) opening last spring," but basketball operations president Larry Bird "nixed it."
Meanwhile, according to The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal, ex-Jazz forward Marc Iavaroni said he will be stunned if he's not retained after this season as head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies and that he's "really kind of surprised" by speculation otherwise.
But, the paper reported Thursday, "no decision either way" has been made by team owner Michael Heisley.Also Thursday, the Milwaukee Bucks as expected fired head coach and ex-Jazz forward Larry Krystkowiak after just one full season.
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