Utah Jazz: Round 2 for the summer of Carlos Boozer begins

Published: Wednesday, May 12 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

Utah forward Carlos Boozer is an unrestricted free agent now that the season is over and may have played his final game in a Jazz uniform.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Despite previous references to playing in Miami and Chicago, Carlos Boozer has made it clear that he'd love to stay planted in Utah.

"Some people think the grass is greener on the other side," Boozer said Tuesday at the Utah Jazz's locker cleanout. "That's not always the case."

There are others who don't want to see Boozer uprooted from Utah, either.

Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan, for two examples.

"We definitely want him back," said Williams, the Jazz's All-Star point guard who's been Boozer's teammate the past five seasons.

"He may have said some things over the summer, but he's been terrific to coach," added Sloan, Boozer's bench boss of six years. "He's been great for (helping) us have a chance to win. … We like to coach players that are talented players, that give us a chance to win every day."

Wanting to keep Boozer is one thing, and it might be a flattering selling point for the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent.

"You always want to be wanted. It feels great to be wanted," Boozer said. "Especially somewhere where I feel like it's a home place for a homebody."

But being able to make it work financially — to meet Boozer's contract demands while staying within the franchise's budget — is an entirely different matter.

Both parties appear to be interested in at least pursuing a new contract for Boozer, who had an overall stellar season despite a rough start and ending.

Boozer said Sloan and general manager Kevin O'Connor indicated they want him back during their exit interview.

That hasn't been on his mind during the Jazz's playoff run, though. Boozer said he hasn't even talked with his agent about free-agency plans yet.

"All that stuff will take care of itself in a few weeks' time," Boozer said. "They'll be in touch a lot and we'll be in touch with them. If something can happen it will."

Asked about the feasibility of re-signing Boozer and whether the Jazz are prepared for a future without him, O'Connor responded with "no comment." The G.M. did admit re-signing Boozer will be discussed.

"We talked (with Boozer) and we told him we'd be in touch with his agent," O'Connor said. "Any negotiations with that, I really wouldn't have any comment on."

O'Connor also couldn't answer whether the Jazz would be better with or without the power forward.

"I don't know the answer. No one ever does," O'Connor said. "What I do know is that he was a major contributor."

When healthy, at least.

In his six seasons with Utah, Boozer had shining moments, including two All-Star appearances and leading Utah to the 2008 Western Conference Finals.

But Boozer also had his share of setbacks — some caused by him opening his mouth, but most deriving from injuries that prevented him from playing in 28 percent of Utah's regular season games (138 of 492) during his stay.

This past season was one of Boozer's healthiest with the Jazz, but he lost some re-earned public goodwill when he missed the regular-season finale with a strained oblique muscle. A win over Phoenix would have pitted the Jazz against Portland and San Antonio in the first two rounds, but the Boozer-less blowout loss put Utah in the path of Denver and L.A.

Sloan, for one, thought criticism Boozer received from his various injuries over the years was unwarranted.

"He didn't want to get hurt," Sloan said. "That was always difficult for me because he never went out and said, 'I hope I get hurt.'"

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