Where do you even start with Carlos Boozer? His signing 6 years ago seems like yesterday but it's hard to remember the team without him.
Besides Derek Fisher, there hasn't been a player that has split the Jazz fan base like Booze. There really aren't too many fans with a meh opinion on the man. You either love him or hate him. And by that I'm not talking in a personal sense. None of us know him and by all accounts he's a great guy. You either think he's indispensable or that his defensive liabilities outweigh his offensive efficiency.
Everything about Boozer has been controversial since he came to Utah in 2004. It was his word against the Cavs' when the team claimed they had made a deal to allow him become a restricted free agent instead of keeping him for another year on the cheap. Boozer was supposed to re-sign with them according to the team. However, the Jazz had the cap space that year to offer him a max deal. With that offer, he could make $30M more than if he stayed in Cleveland. So, he bolted.
It didn't end there. He played in only 51 games that first season with the Jazz and just 33 in the 2006 season due to injury. Injury would become synonymous with Boozer's name. His toughness was often called into question when it appeared at times that he could be playing but chose not to, thereby putting himself above the team.
The lasting impression Jazz fans will have of this was when Utah played Phoenix on the game of the 2010 season needing a win to avoid being the same playoff bracket as the Lakers. He had been out with a strained oblique that he suffered against the Warriors the game before. In what was the biggest game of the season, Jazz fans expected Boozer to play through the pain. Maybe a Boozer with a strained rib muscle would have have been less effective than him not playing at all. But on the biggest game of the season, with their playoff fate in their own hands, most Jazz fans believed he should play through the pain.
Whether it's fair or not, Boozer's toughness, or lack thereof, was going to be overshadowed by the Hall of Famer that filled that position for the better part of two decades.
His other lasting legacy with the Jazz will be his inability to help the Jazz get past the Lakers in the playoffs. For the past three seasons, the Jazz really haven't put up much of a fight against LA. There are a bunch of reasons for that. The Lakers were just that good for one. The Jazz didn't really have good outside shooting to open things up inside. Injuries played a small part. But for the self-proclaimed leader, he struggled against the length of Lakers on both ends of the court. He shot just 45% in the 15 games against LA and the Jazz won just 3 of those. His numbers were respectable at 17 & 13.
He's not completely to blame for those losses but when you're one of the self-proclaimed leaders of the team, it is your fault. That's part of leadership.
I don't know how much of that was a mental block because in the 2007 WCF final run, he dominated Yao and the other members of the Rockets' front court. Yao has the length which would result in Boozer shooting even bigger rainbow jumpers than we're accustomed to. However, Yao doesn't have the quickness that Gasol has. The good news now for him is that he doesn't have to worry about seeing yellow again in the playoffs unless the Bulls make the finals.
One thing I've always thought I've had a little insight into was the mental toughness and whether certain players or teams had it, whatever it is. Call it competitiveness, being cut-throat, and not being intimidated. For example, the 2003 Cubs had it. Despite being known as the lovable losers for decades, I really thought that team had what it took to win in the playoffs. I'll never forget when Mark Prior threw at Barry Bonds. He didn't back down from Bonds when Barry had words with him. And then Bartman happened and it kind of broke them of having it.
I've never seen Boozer as having that. He's never been one to get in anyone's face or confront another player. He's never seemed to have that "do whatever is necessary" attitude it takes to win. That's not saying he wasn't a competitor, there just wasn't that extra mental mindset that the truly elite players have.
There's no doubt the Jazz are going to miss his offense. Millsap should step in and replace most of that with the rest being dispersed between Deron, the wings, and Memo if he comes back. We do get thinner up front and it seems like now the only thing we can hope to get back for Boozer is a trade exception.
There are a lot of things I won't miss. The swipe fouls that did absolutely nothing except send someone to the line or his elbow in the back as his man got by him that had the same result. His non-existent help defense. Regardless. I'll never write that word again without thinking of Boozer's now infamous quote about getting a raise regardless. And no more radio tours.
But if I can switch to Mark McGuire mode now and forget about the past. What's done is done and it's time to look forward to the future of the team. We've said that we always get the status quo with the Jazz. They're content in bringing back the same team year after year despite having the same results each year.
Well, they've now been forced to rebuild in sorts. We have 8 players under contract with at least one new face in Hayward. That leaves 5 spots minimum that need to be filled and probably 6. If you bring back Matthews and Fesenko, you have 3-4 more spots. One might go to Gaines. So now you're looking at probably 2-3 new players for the team. Whether that comes through free agency, trades or the summer league is to be decided.
Regardless (see, you're thinking it too), you have to be excited/anxious about the change that's happening with the team. Whether it's good or bad is to be seen.
It's going to be a remarkably dynamic team, one that I hope can capture the spirit of the 2004 teams but with loads more talent. moni had this to say about looking forward,
For a long time, I disliked Boozer so much (in particular, his lack of effort on defense) that seeing him on the court detracted from my enjoyment of the Jazz. His radio tour last summer only exacerbated my annoyance and frustration. Mostly because he largely kept his mouth shut this past season, these feelings began fading.
I imagine it's kind of like a dissolving marriage. You go through a phase of fighting and acrimony, but eventually you reach a point where you're too tired to fight anymore. You know it's time to move on, and you just want to get the paperwork over with so that you can get on with your life.
Remember the year Stock retired, and Karl retired from the Jazz? It was the end of the world, and life would never be the same. When '03-'04 started, however, it was a new beginning without expectations. It was a completely fresh start. I don't know about anyone else, but I found that team fun to watch. They might not have won as many games as Jazz fans were used to, but they competed and hustled and different wasn't necessarily bad. I'm looking forward to a fresh start in '10-'11. I'm looking forward to seeing a PF lineup of Sap and AK. Different doesn't have to be bad. There are those that say Sap isn't good enough or isn't ready, but he hasn't had the chance to prove anyone wrong yet. Let's not compare him/his offense against Boozer('s; on defense he has already superceded Boozer) until after he's had 3-4 years of starting experience. Boozer's gone, and I'm happy for him that he got his "raise, regardless." As for me, I can't wait for next season to get here and see the new look Jazz.