There's no denying Carlos Boozer has been an absolute beast this season for the Utah Jazz.
In fact, you could make a strong argument — with apologies to All-Star point guard Deron Willams — that Boozer's probably been the team's most valuable player.
After all, he's averaging nearly 20 points and more than 11 rebounds per game, shooting 55 percent from the field — the second-best mark of his eight-year career — and has averaged a career-best 351/2 minutes a night, plus 3.4 assists and 1.2 steals a game, career-high numbers for him.
Indeed, he's making almost all the plays almost all the time, reminding fans why the team brought him here as a free agent six years ago.
Of all the numbers, though, perhaps the most important one is this: 3. That's the number of games the 6-foot-9 power forward has missed thus far this season.
And that's why, in the last few weeks, there's been a groundswell of support to try and keep the big fella here when his current contract expires in a couple of months.
Many fans and media members — including a lot of folks who were clamoring for the Jazz to get rid of Boozer last summer, especially after he went on a couple of radio shows and expressed a desire to play elsewhere, i.e. Miami or Chicago — are back on the Boozer bandwagon.
How soon they forget.
Forgotten are the 31 games that Boozer missed in his first season with the Jazz, back in 2004-05. Or the 49 games he missed the next season. Or the 45 games he sat out last season.
Funny what a season full of stellar performances can do to one's memory.
All, it seems, is forgiven. Those who wanted to buy his ticket out of town a year ago now want to buy Boozer's lunch. Of course, he's making $12.7 million this year, so that won't be necessary.
What it really comes down to is this: When he's healthy and wants to play, Carlos Boozer is a stud, one of top power forwards in the league, a guy who's Mr. Double-Double, a 20/10 guy who can carry a team on his back, despite his lack of defensive effort.
That's the Good Boozer.
But when he's not healthy — which was rather regularly, before this year — or seems somewhat disinterested, he's a maddening enigma who frustrates fans (and, no doubt, his Jazz teammates and the front office) by missing long stretches of playing time.
That's the Bad Boozer.
Fortunately, we haven't seen any of those MIA stretches this season.
Keep in mind, though, that Boozer is auditioning for his next contract. He's determined to show every team in the league — including the one in Utah — that when he's ready and right, he's a powerful force to be reckoned with.
Some folks figure there's no way he'll stay here after this season; others think the free agent forward might actually consider coming back. Some fans have begun the "Bring Boozer Back" campaign; hopefully, the media would (and should) stay out of it, but some of them seem to have pinned on their "BBB" buttons already.
This much is true: Utah is definitely a better team with him — when he's playing the way he has this season, and the way he played in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons, when he averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds a game and missed just 8 games.
Of course, there's no guarantee he won't get hurt again.
It's Roster Roulette, and Boozer's about to spin the wheel. Enjoy the superb performances while you can.
Just don't bet all your money that he'll stay healthy or be back here beyond this season. You might walk away empty-handed.
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