When Carlos Boozer is on the competition floor and play is stopped and an official has the ball, the Utah Jazz's power forward seemingly has to handle the ball — give it a little squeeze, turn it over in his hands — nearly every time before the game can go on.

Referees just automatically hand the ball to him before players from either team shoot free throws or before play resumes, except on timing-sensitive inbounds plays.

"Oh, it's become one of the habits I do since coming into the league," said Boozer. "Just want to touch the ball."

He showed a playful smile and winked and added, "As big guys, we don't get to touch the ball as much as the guards do, so when we get an opportunity to touch the ball, we want to touch it."

On defense, he has another motive. "Sometimes I'm hoping that it will jinx the other player to miss the free throw, but it doesn't work as often as I'd like in this postseason," Boozer said playfully.

It seems officials would have enough to think about without having to remember to give Boozer the ball after each free throw as he stands there waiting to try to rebound, but Boozer said it's easy to get them to do it.

"I'm polite. Very polite guy," he said.

He even got refs to hand him the ball when he was a kid "Oh, yeah. Yeah, I'm a nice guy, Boozer said, though he doesn't remember exactly when he started his ritual.

Sometimes other players may want to do the same thing. Matt Harpring often wants to touch the ball when he first comes into the game off the bench. Often he shoots a shot before time resumes. Sometimes players from other teams like to touch the ball, too.

"Sometimes, yeah," Boozer said, "and I wait for them to get the ball, and then it will be my turn after that."


E-mail: lham@desnews.com