SALT LAKE CITY — If you don't want to be here, Carlos, don't let the door hit you on the way out.
That seemed to be the overriding sentiment of Utah Jazz fans — at least those interviewed prior to the Salt Lake Bees game at Spring Mobile Ballpark on Wednesday evening — after it had become public that Carlos Boozer had reached an agreement to sign with the Chicago Bulls.
"I will love it when the Bulls come here next season," said Chris Cook, a fan from Murray who was wearing a blue Deron Williams Jazz jersey at the Bees game. "I will boo (Boozer) harder than ever."
During Boozer's six-season stint with Utah — two of which saw him make the NBA All-Star team — Jazz fans had a love/hate relationship with the power forward. It was hard at times to know if the crowd at EnergySolutions Arena was shouting his nickname "Booz" or booing him during pre-game introductions.
Scott Garrard, one of the hosts on 1320 KFAN, the Jazz's flagship radio station, said Wednesday afternoon that Boozer is "the most polarizing sports figure in the history of the state of Utah — bar none."
Jazz fans almost seemed fine with losing Boozer. But there is a simple reason Chicago has agreed to sign Boozer for five years at a reported $75 million to $80 million. He is, after all, a guy who averaged 19.5 points and 11.2 rebounds per game last season.
"(Boozer) just wanted out," Cook said. "I don't think he felt respected by the fans here, but he didn't work hard enough to earn our respect."
Jazz fans' biggest beef with Boozer seemed to be how many games he missed. While Boozer played in all but four games last season, he had missed large portions of three of his seasons in Utah while recovering from various injuries.
"The Jazz probably should have traded him at the trade deadline (last season)," said Chris Oviatt of Eagle Mountain. "He's a good player, but he missed a third of his games. That's kind of ridiculous. It hurts the Jazz because he's a 20 (points), 10 (rebounds) guy, but he went for the money."
Boozer spurned Cleveland — the team that drafted him and wanted to give him a healthy raise — in order to sign with the Jazz six years ago for even more money. Perhaps that's why few were surprised Boozer was willing to jump at the chance to get another bump in salary.
"It's a big blow for Utah fans because they've come close in the playoffs for a few years," said Mitchell Zaelit, a former Utahn and a Jazz fan now living in Fort Worth, Texas, who came to the Bees game while on vacation. "When you lose your second-best player, it's tough, but it has always been about the money for Carlos — more than team loyalty."
One fan who had mixed feelings about Wednesday's news was Sam Kinzie, who was wearing a white No. 23 Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey.
"I grew up in Utah and am a Jazz fan, but I've also been a Michael Jordan fan and a Bulls fan for a long time, too," said Kinzie between bites of his hot dog. "I wish Boozer would have stayed here, so I'm not too happy about it. But we plan on flying to Chicago to watch them play, and I'm sure Boozer will make (the Bulls) a better team. So I'm still a Boozer fan."
Most fans said they don't have any hard feelings.
"We're losing a lot of talent, but if he doesn't want to play here then we should try to find somebody who does," said Mike Anderson, a Jazz fan from Kearns. "I try not to get too upset because it is a business. People quit jobs and take new jobs every day. He's trying to do what's best for him and his family, and the Jazz organization is trying to do what's best for them."
Tom Jones of Bountiful thinks it might be for the best that Boozer will no longer be in a Jazz uniform.
"(Boozer) just wanted more money, I guess," said Jones. "He did what was best for him and that's what it's all about. ... The Jazz have some younger players now that can develop. They probably weren't going to win anything this year even if Boozer was here, so if they can develop some young players by next year, it might be better for them in the long run."
While some Jazz fans have been skeptical about the severity of Boozer's injuries in the past, at least one expects him to turn over a new leaf in the Windy City.
"(Boozer) played his butt off when he played, but he was soft and missed a lot of games," Cook said. "I was just telling my dad that now that he's with Chicago, he'll probably never miss another game."
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