You know what Carlos Boozer needs almost as much as a new set of hamstrings?
A personal PR man.
And I'm volunteering for the job.
Let's face it, this man needs a PR makeover.
Not since Greg Ostertag has any player polarized Jazz fans this much, and not entirely because of the way he plays the game.
So where do you stand on Carlos Boozer?
Are you in the Boozer Must Go camp?
Or the Boozer Must Stay Camp?
The Jazz say they're in the latter camp, but it's not that simple. They want to keep the Jazz family together, but it will cost about $71 million just to retain the core group, which puts them in luxury-tax territory — and that doesn't even count money they must spend to retain rising Paul Millsap, who deserves a huge raise if not Boozer's job.
And you thought your family was expensive.
Boozer can opt out of his contract — he's due to make $12.6 million next season — but who knows if there is a team out there in these financially troubled times that's willing to give a raise to a gimpy power forward who has missed one-third of his team's games over the last five years.
Sure, Boozer had a terrific series against the Lakers to end the season, averaging 20 points and 13 rebounds, but does that erase the memory of another disappointing season?
Which is the real Boozer — the guy who played like Karl Malone for four games in the playoffs, or the guy who sleep-walked through the season and disappeared in Game 5 against the Lakers?
Boozer's performance is just one of his problems. He needs to make a few changes in the off-season. Here's the plan I pledge to implement the moment he asks me to fix up his image:
Would it kill him to act as if he were having some fun out there? Have you ever seen a more joyless, detached player? Look, he's not laying bricks out there or digging ditches or pouring concrete or preparing taxes. He's playing basketball. Maybe he could get really crazy and even smile once out there, other than when he wants to show up a referee after a bad call.
Passion for the game translates into consistent hard play and better defense, which leads to . . .
A little more defense would be helpful. Sure, Boozer has averaged 19 points since he joined the Jazz, but he's probably given up 25 at the other end of the court with his matador defense. Half of playing defense is about effort and passion for the game. Sometimes you wonder if his heart is in it (reread Item 1).
He should lose the condescension and aloofness with the media and, by extension, fans. The media is his conduit to the fans, who are paying the $70 million salary he hasn't earned. Before giving a quote to reporters, he should try actually thinking about a meaningful reply instead of reciting coach speak — We just gotta execute the offense.
If Duke grads are going to have a superiority complex, they ought to at least offer an original thought occasionally.
He's got to find a way to stay on the court. Boozer missed 45 games this season. He missed 49 games three seasons ago. In five years, he's sat out 134 games with various injuries — an average of 26.4 per season. Karl Malone, he's not. OK, sore subject (so to speak); let's move on.
Lose the mercenary image. We all know that players play in large part to earn those fat paychecks because even though they make lots of money they spend lots of money, too, or whatever it is Pat Ewing said. Somewhere in the mix there also should be a desire to win, perform and make his team better, especially considering the paycheck the franchise has paid him.
No matter how you view Boozer's controversial exit from Cleveland years ago, the bottom line is that he fled a rising young team to take a big pay raise from a rebuilding Jazz team years ago and left behind a lot of bad feelings. Now he seems ready to do the same thing to the Jazz, depending on which side of his mouth he is talking.
When Boozer finally does have an original thought to express, if it's about fleeing the Jazz so he can take a bigger paycheck, and he is sitting on the bench with an injury at the time, then he should keep his yapper shut and go back to talking about executing the offense.
Last December, while sidelined with yet another injury that would bench him almost half the season, he had the nerve to tell ESPN.com, "No matter what, I'm going to get a raise regardless. I am going to opt out (of his contract). I don't see why I wouldn't. I think it's a very good business decision for me and my family, but I'd also like to see what happens with the Jazz and stay here."
Glad he cleared that up. Look, even if he thinks he wants to opt out, talking about seeking a raise from another team when he can't even suit up for the team that is paying him an eight-figure salary is just bad manners, if nothing else. This week Boozer said he wants to stay with the Jazz but he "doesn't know" if he will.