DEERFIELD, Ill. — As the Carlos Boozer news conference was winding down on Friday afternoon, the Chicago Bulls' summer league practice was getting ready to begin.
Twice Boozer cut interviews short so he could rush over and greet friends on the Bulls' summer squad. First it was guard John Lucas III, then one of Boozer's Miami buddies, guard Jack McClinton. Boozer clearly has friends in a variety of places — including Utah, as he reflected back on six years in Salt Lake City.
"I'll miss a lot," he said. "My teammates, the coaching staff, the organization — they were all great to me for six years. I grew up a lot out there, learned a lot about who I was and where I was going." Most NBA observers expected Boozer to leave Utah a year ago, but he surprisingly chose not to opt out of his contract. Asked if he considered re-signing with the Jazz this year, Boozer didn't waver in his answer.
"I did," he said. "I had talked to (CEO) Greg (Miller) first, as soon as 9 o'clock hit (on July 1). I was in L.A. when free agency started. I told Greg I really wanted the opportunity to stay. I wanted to talk to him first. I wanted to see what they had in store and what they were going to do.
"Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be for me to stay. That's OK. Sometimes that happens. But coming here, I know I'm coming to the right place."
Boozer wouldn't get into what was said in his initial conversation with the Jazz, but suggested contract terms were discussed between the two sides. Introduced in Chicago the day after LeBron James snubbed the Bulls and announced plans to join the Miami Heat, Boozer was enthusiastic about the choice he made.
"This was the best place for me professionally and personally," he said. "One of the biggest reasons, they want to win. They have a huge desire to win championships. Not just now, but for many years to come. They have the pieces in place, the motivation in place, the coach in place and the right DNA makeup to get it done. I want to win championships."
Boozer and James were teammates during the 2003-04 season in Cleveland. He admitted making a last-minute pitch for James to join him in Chicago, then offered a congratulatory phone call late Thursday night when James was on his way to Miami.
"I was happy for him," Boozer said. "I think no matter what he did, it would be extremely scrutinized. I think if he had gone back (to Cleveland), he would have taken criticism. If he left like he did, he would have had criticism.
"I talked to him last night and wished him good luck. He wished the same for me. He had to do what's best for him and his family. Hopefully, we'll see them down the road."
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Boozer agreed it was tough to leave a successful partnership with point guard Deron Williams in Utah. Now he'll team up with a younger version in Derrick Rose, who made the All-Star team in his second season.
"I'm going to miss him," Boozer said of Williams. "We had a great combo out there."
Boozer also promised to keep Jazz coach Jerry Sloan with him in spirit until he retires from basketball.
"I look at him as always going to be my coach," Boozer said. "I learned so much from him. I grew up a lot in Utah under him and the whole coaching staff. It was a great family, great organization and I was proud to be a part of it for so many years."