SALT LAKE CITY — The Jazz cleared their lockers Tuesday morning amid considerable speculation on the future of Carlos Boozer.
But why talk about him?
He's sooooo last year.
Forget his pending free agency. The guy they need to please is Deron Williams, and he's still under contract. But mark your calendars. This time in two years, Williams can choose whether to pick up his option year.
They Jazz have been planning around Boozer's departure for an eternity. The first time he hinted he could enjoy playing elsewhere, most Utah fans mentally checked out. So did the Jazz, if actions mean anything. They signed forward Paul Millsap to a new contract last summer, and it was all decided.
Millsap is their future power forward, while Williams is the franchise.
Boozer is a trail gone cold.
Which brings us to this week and the Jazz's situation. It's doubtful Boozer — an unrestricted free agent — will be back. If staying would help secure a championship for the Jazz, it might be a calculated risk to try to re-sign him. But his 10-point dud against the Lakers Monday proved again he's not the key to a championship.
As the saying goes, if you keep doing what you're doing, you'll get what you've been getting.
Meanwhile, there's Williams, the All-Star point guard. The Jazz just need to keep him happy as a golden retriever. To do that, they must find a legitimate inside presence.
"We definitely need a shot-blocker; somebody who can hold down the paint for a whole game, not just a quarter or two," said Williams on Tuesday.
Is someone in the front office listening?
"We're still in the battle," said coach Jerry Sloan. "We're moving forward. We're not trying to move backward."
It has always been a slightly uneasy relationship between Williams and the Jazz. With Boozer, it was simpler to interpret the signals. He would blurt something about moving on, then backtrack. But everyone knew he was playing for his next contract and the next town.
Williams was another matter. While he has been superb, nobody ever really knows what he's thinking. Like the time last year when things weren't looking great for the Jazz and Williams said that was why he signed for three years, rather than longer.
The message was this: Williams isn't sticking around if the Jazz don't have a chance.
"I was just saying I think if we want to compete for a title, we have to add pieces, do a deal, year after year. If you stay the same, you get the same results," said Williams on Tuesday. "It wasn't a threat or anything like that, just being honest. I just feel like if we want to compete for a title, we need to make some moves."
In some ways, they have moved. They signed Wesley Matthews this year, and the undrafted rookie became a fan favorite. Meanwhile, they're lining up for a lottery pick in this year's draft. Maybe they can even trade up, as they did when they got Williams at No. 3.
Whatever keeps the BMOC (Big Man On Court) happy.
Williams seems cool with his surroundings, most of the time. But then he'll say things like he did Tuesday, when asked what it would take to make him a long-term fixture in Utah.
"I don't know," he said. (Great, just what Jazz fans want to hear.)
He continued, "I didn't say I wouldn't be a long term fixture. I'm just going to keep playing and hopefully, if I'm able to take care of everything else, (then) it's one of those deals I won't have to worry about."
And if they don't make moves?
Plan on him looking around once his option comes up.
Williams, of course, is the key to anything the Jazz do. Lose him and they're back to the 2003-04 days when Andrei Kirilenko was the star. The Jazz can't just pick up another All-Star point guard by dialing 1-800-Grab-a-Guard.
If Williams is gone, so are the Jazz.
Asked if his team is stuck in the middle of the Western Conference, or rising to the top, Williams said, "I'd say this year I think we were stuck in the middle."
Not a place he wants to be.
When another reporter inquired if the team had overachieved or underachieved this year, Williams deadpanned: "You tell me."
Thus on Tuesday, the Jazz broke up and headed out. Will they try to re-sign Boozer? Who cares? They only need to keep happy the one guy who gives them wings.
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