For the last two seasons, Utah Jazz power forward Carlos Boozer has essentially fought fire with fire.
His personal life in turmoil for more than a year and a half over the serious health issues of his infant son, Carmani, that forced his wife and family to live in low-altitude Miami while Boozer played ball in mountainous Utah, Boozer played as hard as he got from life.
He made the 2007 NBA All-Star Game roster, even if he couldn't play due to a fractured fibula head near his left knee, with career-best numbers of 22.1 points and 11.8 rebounds and helped lead the Jazz to the 2007 NBA Western Conference Finals.
This season, which started with him alone again in Utah but with the knowledge that Carmani was on the road to recovery after a bone marrow transplant last summer, Boozer will almost certainly be named to the 2008 All-Star team as he's averaging a career-high 22.5 points and 10.8 rebounds and has posted double-doubles in his last five games, 29 of them for the season.
His name won't likely be read tonight when the starters for the 2008 All-Star Game are announced on TNT prior to its double-header, but, fourth in fan voting all along, he will almost certainly be chosen later by the conference coaches for the reserve roster and announced Jan. 31 for the game to be held in New Orleans Feb. 17.
Boozer said Wednesday that playing like an All-Star for the past two seasons helped to take his mind off the family issues brought on by Carmani's sickle cell anemia.
"Oh, obviously I'm fortunate my son's going to be OK," Boozer said prior to Wednesday's team practice, "but for me, I put everything I had into basketball.
"That was my relief from what was going on in my personal life."
The uncertainties last season, and of last summer and fall as Carmani stayed hospitalized for 40 days after a bone marrow transplant, were probably worse than this season as Boozer spent another two months alone in Utah.
"I don't know which (season) was harder," Boozer said
"They were both tough in their own respects because last year I was without them for so long, and this summer, we didn't really know what the outcome was going to be until he came back from the hospital.
"Both were very tough, but last year being without them that was something I don't want nobody to ever have to go through."
The past two seasons were far rougher than Boozer's first two with the Jazz, when he missed about half of the games with a foot injury and a strained left hamstring things people couldn't actually see, so many questioned Boozer's desire to play here.
"That's no comparison to Carmani. People can kill me all day long," he said, "but when my son actually has a chance to die, that's a different ballgame. I know I'm going to be able to play again when I heal. For him it was life or death.
Now, though, the family which since last summer includes twin boys Cayden and Cameron has been together again in Utah for several weeks, as Carmani's treatments enabled him to live at higher altitude.
And Boozer knew great joy Tuesday on a rare Jazz day off.
"It's awesome to have them here," he said.
"We were having fun (Tuesday). I brought them over to the (Zions Bank Basketball Center) gym a little bit and got to kick the ball around a little bit.
"I get to wake up with them and go to sleep with them, play with them, play in the snow with them. It's just a lot of fun.
"Carmani loves the snow. He's trying to throw snowballs and pack snowballs and do that kind of thing," Boozer said with a big smile on his face.
The old man is from Juneau, Alaska, and grew up with the snow and cold. "I've been in snow my whole life. I like it a lot," he said.
But he didn't know how the kids would react.
"It's first time in the snow (for them) to really be able to play around in it, so, that they like it, I'm excited about that. We were throwing snowballs a couple days ago."
Everything seems brighter for Boozer now. "This is becoming a good (year) because that door (on the old difficulties) was closed a couple weeks ago when they got here. It's going to be a terrific year in '08, and I'm looking forward to enjoying that," he said.
Actually playing in the All-Star Game would be a nice step forward for Boozer, who leans down and hits his knuckles on the wooden basketball floor and says, "Knock on wood," when talking about being able to participate after watching from the sidelines last year in Las Vegas."I'm excited about it. It's something that I go into each summer with that goal in mind, and other goals of mine as well, so I'm looking forward to that. It would be a huge honor again," he said.
Boozer by the numbers
• 22.5 ppg/10.8 rpg