FanHouse Preview: Utah Jazz
Carlos Boozer is still with the Jazz.
Well, at least he was 10 minutes ago.
Heading into the season, Boozer's status is the biggest issue surrounding the team. He said during radio interviews during the summer that he wouldn't mind ending up in Chicago or Miami, and that Jazz officials told him they were looking to trade him.
The forward, though, didn't get moved. And now he's saying that, if the Jazz keep him throughout the season, impressive things can happen in Utah.
"If they keep us together, we can be very good,'' he said.
But there's no certainty Jazz officials won't pull the trigger on Boozer, who is making $12.7 million in the final year of his contract, rather than risk losing him next summer as a free agent and getting nothing.
How long Boozer sticks around could depend on whether the Jazz can stay healthy for a change and be an upper-echelon team in the West. Utah's talent certainly suggests it can.
Boozer, who missed 45 games last season because of a knee injury, has been an NBA All-Star. Center Mehmet Okur and forward Andei Kirilenko are both former All-Stars, although no one would suggest Kirilenko is anywhere near that level anymore.
Meanwhile, the best player on the team, point guard Deron Williams, never has been an All-Star. One figures Williams will find his way into that game in his fifth season.
Utah has two other up-and-coming stars in forward Paul Millsap and guard Ronnie Brewer. Millsap, who signed a four-year $32.5 million offer sheet with Portland that was matched by the Jazz, looks to be the eventual replacement for Boozer at power forward.
Whether eventual means February or next season remains to be seen.
But whatever configuration of players Utah coach Jerry Sloan has, you better believe he'll coach the heck out of them. Sloan was named to the Hall of Fame last month, but Jazz officials will make sure Sloan, who hates it when somebody makes a fuss over him, won't be introduced before games as any sort of living legend.
After missing the playoffs three times following the departures of Karl Malone and John Stockton in 2003, the Jazz have made the postseason three straight years. Last season initially had the makings of being an impressive one, but the Jazz went 48-34 as injuries, in addition to sidelining Boozer, also cost Williams, Okur and Kirilenko a combined 39 games.
But injuries weren't a valid excuse down the stretch. Just as the Jazz were getting healthy, they had a stretch in February and March in which they won 15 of 16, including 12 straight. Utah, though, inexplicably then collapsed, going 7-11 the rest of the regular season and were wiped out 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs by the Lakers.
That left a bad taste for the team. It didn't get any better during the offseason when Boozer took to the radio and looked to be a man ready to pack his bags.
But Boozer hopes good times can return in Utah, and he will be part of it.
He was still with the Jazz five minutes ago.
Last Season By the Numbers
Record: 48-34 under Jerry Sloan. Finished 3rd in the Northwest Division, 8th in the Western Conference. Eliminated by Lakers (4-1) in the first round.
Offense: 110.1 points per 100 possessions, 8th in the NBA; 11th in shooting, 21st in turnover rate, 5th in offensive rebounding, 2nd in free throw rate.
Defense: 107.1 points per 100 possessions, 10th in the NBA; 18th in shooting defense, 2nd in opponent turnover rate, 21st in defensive rebounding, 26th in opponent free throw rate.
Top Performers: Point guard Deron Williams led the Jazz in scoring with 19.4 points per game and finished second in the NBA with an average of 10.7 assists. Center Mehmet Okur averaged 17 points while shooting a sparkling 44.6 percent from three-point range. Injury-riddled forward Carlos Boozer averaged 16.2 points, the lowest in his five years with Utah. Boozer averaged a team-best 10.4 rebounds while playing in just 37 games. Among qualifiers, forward Paul Millsap was the best, at 8.6. After averaging just 8.3 points during a disastrous 2006-07 season, at least forward Andrei Kirilenko posted his second straight increase in a season while averaging 11.6.
Player to Watch
FanHouse's Matt Moore and Tom Ziller preview one player to watch from each team. Here's a snippet of Moore's post on Jazz guard Ronnie Brewer.
Brewer can hustle, that's for sure. Since being drafted out of the University of Arkansas, Brewer has shown himself to be one of the best contributers from his draft class, clocking in above league-average PERs over the last two seasons. He shoots a high percentage, but has struggled from the arc, which is where he put his emphasis on improvement this summer.
With how talented the Jazz are, Brewer is easy to lose in the mix. But he's fiercely loyal toward Jerry Sloan, busts his backside on every play, and really has the potential to be a very special "No-Stats-All-Star" if he can find his veteran groove. Maybe in this rocky year for a transitioning Jazz he can find that groove.
See Moore's full post on Brewer.
IN: Ronald Dupree (free agency), Eric Maynor (draft), Goran Suton (draft).
OUT: Morris Almond (free agency), Jarron Collins (free agency), Brevin Knight (free agency),
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