Boozer no doubt has won fans over after a 2009 summer of controversy, when he went on Chicago and Miami radio stations, talking about how he'd love to play for teams in those cities. But where does Boozer now hope he will play in 2010-11?
"I'd love to have the opportunity to come back,'' Boozer said in an interview with FanHouse about wanting to re-sign with the Jazz after he becomes a free agent July 1. "July will be interesting, but I'd love to have the opportunity to stay. ... The rest is up to them. That's all I can do.''
Well, Boozer can continue to whet the appetite of the front office by putting up big numbers. He's averaging 19.4 points and 11.1 rebounds for a Utah outfit that is 46-25 and within striking distance of landing the No. 2 seed in the West.
At the start of the season, many observers figured Boozer wouldn't last in Utah past the Feb. 18 trade deadline. The Jazz, after all, was way over the luxury-tax threshold and there was a belief Utah wouldn't mind shedding Boozer's $12.7 million salary while also eliminating the risk of losing him for nothing this summer.
Plus, Utah had matched a four-year, $32.5 million offer sheet put down last summer on reserve power forward Paul Millsap. So Boozer's replacement was right there on the other side of the locker room.
But several things happened along the way. The Jazz was able to save about $9 million in a December deal in which Eric Maynor and Matt Harpring were shipped to Oklahoma City. The Jazz, which still is over the tax threshold, also was able to save money by last month trading to Memphis swingman Ronnie Brewer, a move that also perhaps clears up more money for next season since Brewer will be a restricted free agent.
And Utah started winning big, with Boozer playing a key role. Since a 19-17 start, the Jazz has gone 27-8.
Throw it all together, it didn't end up being much of a distraction about whether Boozer might be traded and how he and Millsap would coexist.
"It wasn't a distraction for me,'' Boozer said. "I was ready to play, and every time I stepped on the court, I gave it my all. I can't care about what (anybody) writes... My job is to hoop, and that's what I do and I do it well.''
Utah general manager Kevin O'Connor said talk about the Boozer situation being a distraction was "overrated.'' He said Boozer "has been a professional'' all season.
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan agreed, saying anything lingering from over the summer was put to rest in a preseason meeting he had with Boozer. While Boozer had decided by July 1, 2009 to not opt out of his contract and become a free agent last summer, he claimed Utah officials told him a trade was being sought, a contention Jazz officials wouldn't address publicly. But Boozer said when he first saw Sloan in training camp he let him know "the summer was over'' and he was ready to move forward.
"When he came back, there was a lot of stuff talked about from over the summer,'' Sloan said. "When he came in, he said, 'I'm coming here to play, and you're here to coach.' You try to make it work the best you can. That's all you can ask for. ... Not after I had the conversation with him (did Sloan have any concerns).''
Sloan has signed for 2010-11, which will be his 23rd season with the Jazz. So does he want Boozer to join him in returning?
"Yeah, it's really a no-brainer with the way he's helped us win games,'' Sloan said. "I'd hate to think where we would be (without Boozer). To some extent, Paul Millsap is a different player and has done a great job. That adds a lot to our team, and to have three guys (Boozer, starting center Mehmet Okur and Millsap) that you can kind of move around (in the post).''
Sloan, though, says he can't "coach the dollars'' that come along with whether Boozer might return. Taking care of the money part is O'Connor, with plenty of guidance from ownership.
"It always is,'' O'Connor said about finances coming into play in the decision as to whether Boozer returns. "But I think we've proven that we're not afraid to go into the luxury tax this year.
"We've got to wait until the end of the season to say anything (about possibly retaining Boozer). You never want to give away good players, watching good players leave. He's been terrific for us all year long. We've talked to everybody so we'll evaluate everything at the end of the season.''
It's not out of the question Boozer, 28, could sign an extension before the June 30 deadline, with O'Connor expected to keep in regular touch with Boozer's camp. So would Boozer consider inking an extension if one were presented, perhaps at the 11th hour, a scenario in which Washington's Antawn Jamison signed June 30, 2008?
"Of course, I would consider it,'' Boozer said. "We'll see what happens.''
What's also happening now is Millsap, who was impressive last season when Boozer missed more than half the season due to a knee injury, is still striving for consistency. Millsap, 25, did average 28.5 points on 63.6-percent shooting in his first two starts this season, but then averaged just 11.0 points and shot 45.2 percent in his next four.
Millsap's scoring average is down from 13.5 last season to 11.6 and his rebounding down from 8.6 to 6.5. Part of it that is due to his minutes having declined from 30.1 to 27.6 a night, but his scoring and rebounding numbers still have decreased a decent amount on a per-minute basis.
"Everybody loves to start. Who wouldn't?'' Millsaps said when asked whether he would have any problem with continuing to come off the bench if Boozer re-signs. "But I'm playing a role right now. I have an important role for our team. I've just got to go out and do it.''
When asked if he'd like to see Boozer return, Millsap was noncommittal, saying "it's up to him and his family and the people in the front office.''
But there's nothing noncommittal from Boozer.
"I'd like to be here,'' he said.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson