MIAMI — If the fact he's missed so many games to injury this season has altered his previously disclosed decision to opt out of the final year of his contract with the Jazz in the coming summer, he isn't saying.

If the fact the economy is in the tank has done the same, he isn't saying that either.

Two-time NBA All-Star and two-time United States Olympian Carlos Boozer, in fact, isn't saying much at all about his offseason plans — not even as he sits here in Miami, which once seemed like, but no longer appears to be, his No. 1 suspected destination for potential defection.

"I'm not worried about the summer," Boozer, who calls Miami home but now is rumored to be a possible prime offseason target for the Detroit Pistons, said before the Jazz practiced here Friday for today's game against the Miami Heat.

"I'm still trying to win a championship this season with the team, and, for me, just to be as best as I can for my teammates, so we can be as close as we can to winning a championship," added Boozer, who riled Jazz brass when in December he publicly and definitively declared his intentions to opt out of the final $12.7 million season in his current deal and seek more money either in Utah or elsewhere. "I think we have to see how good we are."

The Jazz, 41-25 overall and 2-2 so far on a five-game road trip that ends Sunday at Orlando, are positioned to make a third straight playoff run with Deron Williams at the point and Boozer playing power forward.

"I think," Boozer said with a little bit of a laugh, "when we're at full strength — or when I'm at full strength, when I catch up to them — we can be pretty good."

The Jazz's problem for now is that Boozer — who missed 44 games earlier this season with a quadriceps injury and related knee injury that led to arthroscopic surgery, and another game last Sunday at Toronto with a sprained ankle — remains something decidedly less than 100 percent.

"I'd like for him to be in great shape, but I think you can see he's not in as good of condition as he was, and that hurts him," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said before a loss at Atlanta on Wednesday night that ended Utah's 12-game win streak. "But I don't have a problem with that."

To the contrary, Sloan continues to talk up his top rebounder at every opportunity.

The Jazz coach called Boozer's attitude in light of what awaits this summer "terrific," and suggested it's only others outside the franchise who are trying to bring him down.

"It's unfortunate," Sloan said, "but people look ... to see a guy fail.

"We want 'em to succeed," he added, "and try to approach it that way."

Still, the conditioning question remains something of a concern.

Asked in Atlanta how long he expects it will be before Boozer's back to his old self, Sloan suggested he wasn't sure.

"You saw how long it took Deron Williams to get on top of his game (following a preseason ankle sprain). I mean, he missed 14 games," the Jazz coach said. "(Boozer's) missed (44), and his conditioning is not there. His basketball timing and all that is not there. But life goes on."

Sloan reiterated as much in Miami, and isn't alone in sensing that Boozer's still not all the way back.

"I can't speak for him," Williams said. "I don't know how he's feeling. I don't know how his body's doing. I don't know where he's at mentally. ... Trying to get back in a rhythm — it's tough."

"His conditioning, it's a little bit better," Sloan added Friday. "But you can't miss as many games as he has and be in shape."

Even Boozer, who since his return has slipped from being the Jazz's top scorer to No. 3 behind Williams and center Mehmet Okur, readily admits he's not there yet.

"Not a hundred (percent)," he said.

"Before the ankle, probably close to 85.

"Every day gets better," added Boozer, who suggests his "jumping" and "mobility" still are sub-par. "Every day is more comfortable. The more I step on the court, the more comfortable I am."

Yet even that in itself presents the Jazz with something of a quandary, as Sloan continues to try to balance Boozer's needs returning from a three-plus-month absence with those of the team.

"I think Coach is doing a good job of seeing where he's at," Williams said. "In games where it looks like he's on, then stay with him."

"We want to get him back as much as we can, but he's got to be patient with us a little bit on that," added Sloan, who suggested in hindsight he feels he may have overextended Boozer by playing him 32 minutes in the loss to the Hawks. "I think sometimes he probably gets a little bit frustrated going in and out. But what we're trying to do is win a ballgame."

And that, Boozer maintains, is all he's interested in for now.

"Summer stuff we'll take care of over the summer," he said. "I'm sure I'll talk to you guys about it all summer. But right now we're gonna focus on the season, and try to win a (championship)."

And the ailing economy?

24 comments on this story

It supposedly is prompting some high-profile future NBA free agents to consider signing extensions with their current teams rather testing the market down the road.

Boozer wouldn't say Friday if he'd consider the same, but did suggest he feels it's a drain for everyone.

"My family, your family, you, me, everybody," he said. "That's something else we can talk about this summer, too."

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com