SALT LAKE CITY — Remember mistrusting Carlos Boozer? The feeling of suspicion each time he took one of his extended injury breaks? I certainly remember the columns I wrote on him. But now I have company. The Chicago media has him figured out, too.
"I was sorry to hear about Carlos Boozer's injury," Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune wrote this week. "Because I was hoping he had been benched for stinking it up again."
Rosenbloom went on to joke that Boozer earns approximately $80 million per basket.
"I was hoping that Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau had grown as sick of Boozer's act as I had," he wrote.
Wait until they've watched the act for six years.
The story came after Game 5 of the Indiana-Chicago series, in which Boozer produced only two points and five rebounds. Seems he sustained a turf toe injury. The reason I say "seems" is because with Boozer, you never know.
"Boozer said he suffered an injury to his right big toe. Of course he did, because that's part of his irritating act, as well," wrote Rosenbloom. "It's something every month with this guy. Did he buy a timeshare on the injured list? How can a guy who's that cut be that injury-prone? How can a guy who has no idea how to guard anybody get hurt so often?"
I've wondered the same things, especially since the previous super-chiseled Jazz guy was Karl Malone — who NEVER missed games.
So it goes in Boozer's peculiar world, where he plays just enough games to get the next big contract. In his first year in Chicago, he missed 23 regular-season games.
Curiously, back here in Utah, there is another big contract player that has been hurt much of the time: Andrei Kirilenko. In Boozer's six seasons with the Jazz, he missed 138 games (28 percent); in the same span, Kirilenko missed 115 games (23 percent). But you seldom see anyone calling out Kirilenko.
I can think of two reasons for that. First, Kirilenko has only missed large chunks of time once, in 2004-05, when he lost the final 41 games of the year due to a broken wrist. Boozer was given to extremes. He missed 31 games one year, 49 the next and 45 another. He also missed one of the biggest regular-season games in Jazz history, skipping the season finale against Phoenix in 2010 due to a stomach strain.
Before the Phoenix game, the Jazz had an outside chance at a No. 2 seed but ended up No. 5 instead, thanks to the loss. I don't doubt Boozer was injured, but the next day he claimed wild horses couldn't keep him from Game 1 of the playoffs. I've wondered why he didn't say that before Game 82 of the regular season.
So as Kirilenko goes into his own free agent season, he gets a pass, partly because he cried during the playoffs one year after becoming frustrated about playing time. The thought of Boozer crying over missed games is laughable.
Kirilenko never talked about getting a guaranteed raise the way Boozer did. He even once offered to let the Jazz out of their contract with him.
I'm doubting that ever happened with Boozer.
Fair or not, personality and sincerity factor into how a player is treated by fans and media. Boozer stares vacantly over peoples' heads; Kirilenko makes eye contact and smiles. Boozer avoids revealing anything meaningful about himself; Kirilenko is almost an open book. Boozer had a woman tell Life and Style magazine that she had an affair with him while he was married. Kirilenko's wife offered to let her own husband have one extramarital affair per year, but A.K. said he wasn't interested.
Different people, different styles. But it's not hard to see why fans give Kirilenko a break.
Nobody really knows how much a player is hurt. But when he's healthy, Kirilenko plays defense; Boozer plays the same defense whether he's healthy or injured: none.
Boozer got his stats and eventually got his raise. Now he's getting the same treatment by the Chicago press as he got in Salt Lake and Cleveland. They think he's faking, or at least wimping out. As the saying goes, if it looks like a a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it is probably a duck.
Which, as Daffy Duck would say, is dethpsicable.