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Utah Jazz: Boozer will be 'game-time decision' tonight

Published: Monday, Feb. 23 2009 12:42 p.m. MST

It is very likely Carlos Boozer will play tonight when the Utah Jazz play host to the Atlanta Hawks. It's very probable the two-time All-Star will suit up in an NBA uniform and not a designer suit. There's a very good chance the power forward will see his first action since hurting his left knee on Nov. 18.

It's just not official yet.

"It feels really good," Boozer said of his knee following the team's morning shootaround Monday. "I'm going to see how it feels tonight and make a game-time decision."

Keeping him off the court tonight, however, might be as tough as keeping children away from their presents on Christmas morning.

Boozer is almost bursting at the seams in anticipation of playing again after missing the past 44 games following his November injury and January surgery. He participated in 3-on-3 full-court scrimmages in Sunday's practice and says his knee feels better than it has since the injury occurred.

His spirits are up, too.

"So happy, man. I'm so excited, looking forward to it and I'm going to be going crazy," Boozer said this morning. "I play with so much emotion already I might be extra hyped if I get to play."

If he does play tonight, Boozer will likely start but only play for four-to-five-minute stretches. Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said team trainer Gary Briggs wants to limit Boozer's playing time in his return. To that point, Boozer said he expects to play between 12 to 15 minutes the entire game.

If, that is, he plays.

"He's excited about playing. I would be, too," Sloan said. "He's been out for a while, and glad to see him. Hopefully we get him back, get him into the lineup."

Sloan has been enjoying having his full contingency of players on the practice court the past couple of days — something that hadn't happened all year until last Friday when Boozer practiced for the first time during his surgery rehab.

"It's been a long time," Sloan admitted. "But we still had to go on and play. Fortunately, we're hanging in there at this point and we'll see if we can move forward a little bit."

Point guard Deron Williams says getting Boozer back will put more pressure on defenses and take a bit of the pressure off his teammates.

"We don't know how much he's going to play, but it's good to have him back in the locker room, back on the court," Williams said. "Hopefully he can get back to 100 percent soon."

When he does come back, Williams says it will give the Jazz "a big boost." Boozer averaged 20.5 points and 11.7 rebounds in the 12 games in which he played earlier this season.

"I've said all year we need him to get healthy and be a big part of this team," Williams added. "That's a lot of scoring, a lot of rebounding we've been missing for most of the year. It's promising because he's coming back with enough time that we can make a big run."

The Jazz (33-23) have won four straight and seven of their past eight games, but they still only sit in the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.

E-MAIL: jody@desnews.com

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