MAITLAND, Fla. — After six up-and-down seasons filled with controversy, curious injuries and a couple NBA All-Star Game selections, Carlos Boozer is gone.
The Jazz's starting power forward and leading scorer and rebounder from last season, the recipient of a new five-year contract valued at upwards of $80 million, is headed to Chicago.
"He was a good player for us. You don't want to lose a good player. So was it disappointing? Sure," said Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor, who when news of the agreement became public Wednesday was with the team at the Orlando Pro Summer League here.
"We all wanted him back," O'Connor added when asked about coach Jerry Sloan's unhappiness. "It's disappointing. (But) I think he got an offer he couldn't refuse."
The Jazz were afforded a brief opportunity to match or even up the contract, but they weren't about — in any way, shape or form — to offer a deal averaging $16 million per season and supposedly starting at around $13 million.
ESPN originally reported the contract's value at $80 million over five years, then altered that to between $75 million and $80 million - with the Chicago Tribune putting the figure at $76 million.
"We had conversations (with Boozer's camp) throughout the last three or four days, and I think they were talking to a lot of teams," O'Connor said. "I think they gathered all their last bids, so to speak, and took a look."
Liking what they saw from Chicago, they jumped.
The New Jersey Nets, meanwhile, were willing to offer the same sort of money as the Bulls - but according to the Newark Star-Ledger they never got a final shot to match, leaving them livid.
Boozer made $12.66 million last season, the tail end of a six-year, $68 million deal signed after he supposedly reneged on a promise to stay in Cleveland.
"He had a good year," O'Connor said, "and he earned a nice contract."
Boozer never planned to be in Utah last season, and caught quite a bit of flak the prior season for telling a national reporter he definitely intended to opt out of contract in 2009 and most certainly expected a pay raise.
Yet even after reversing course because of disinterest in him on the open market and surprisingly opting in for the final season of his contract last summer, then furthermore talking publicly about how much he'd prefer playing in Miami or Chicago, Boozer averaged 19.5 points and 11.2 rebounds in 2009-10.
Not all of his Utah years, however, were so productive.
He played 51 games in his first season, 2004-05, which ended abruptly with a mysterious foot injury that developed shortly after late owner Larry H. Miller criticized his defensive effort and the Jazz failed to trade him.
The next season started with a much-scrutinized hamstring injury, and was limited to 31 games.
Boozer also underwent knee surgery, in which no major damage was detected, during a 37-game 2008-09 season.
Then, in the Jazz's crucial final game of the just-completed NBA regular season, the two-time United States Olympian and one-time gold-medal winner sat out with a strained oblique muscle.
In all, the 28-year-old missed 138 games during his six-year Utah tenure.
He also found himself dealing with personal issues during a 2008 playoff series with the Los Angeles Lakers, a loss which if avoided could have eventually catapulted Utah to the NBA Finals.
"You're responsible for your actions," O'Connor said.
"Look, he made the All-Star team twice, and he had some injuries and everything else," the Jazz GM added when asked to characterize Boozer's run in Utah. "All those things are a part of what you look at."
O'Connor suggested the Jazz are hoping for a sign-and-trade that could add an extra year Boozer's deal and net an asset in return.
"We're exploring that right now," he said.
The Jazz would prefer for that asset to be a player, but Wednesday night it seemed unlikely that would happen.
They evidently have no shot at Bulls small forward Luol Deng, and - as much as they might like - probably couldn't score power forward Taj Gibson either.
But if the Bulls did agree to a sign-and-trade, the Jazz could take back a traded player exception.
That would allow them to acquire another player (or players) via trade sometime in the next year.
That decision is expected this morning.
As for replacing Boozer, the Jazz will turn to backup Paul Millsap - and perhaps look for small forward Andrei Kirilenko to play more power forward.
They'll also search for a backup to Millsap, perhaps using a $6.5 million trade exception they own.
"Fortunately, we've got a kid who's averaged double-doubles when he started at that position," O'Connor said of Millsap. "What we're concerned with is depth, and who backs him up."
But without Boozer, O'Connor conceded, "it takes away some scoring in the post, so we're gonna have to be a different team."
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