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News » Kragthorpe: Boozer's last chance to make impression is against L.A.


Kragthorpe: Boozer's last chance to make impression is against L.A.


Kragthorpe: Boozer's last chance to make impression is against L.A.
If only because of the way the Jazz forward struggled against the Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs last spring, the curious case of Carlos Boozer would be intriguing enough these days.

Mix in all the other issues involving Boozer -- his contract status, his personal life, fans having soured on him -- and it becomes all the more fascinating to watch how he responds to another postseason meeting with the Lakers.

Is this Boozer's last stand as a Jazzman? That's up to him, in the sense that he could decide to play out the remaining year of his contract or become a free agent. The choice brings all kinds of factors into play: the injuries that cost him about half of this season, the economic state of the NBA, the financial legalities of his pending divorce, his value in the league and the potentially star-studded free-agent class of 2010.

Otherwise, there's not much for him to consider.

No wonder Boozer is saying only, "I'll worry about that later."

The Lakers certainly gave him enough headaches last May. Seven-foot forward Paul Gasol and other defenders spooked Boozer, who shot barely 40 percent from the field and averaged 16 points in six games, well below his team-leading 21.1 mark during an All-Star regular season.

"I definitely pay attention to how they played me last year, and I'm looking forward to being ready for it this year," Boozer said. "They do a great job of giving [Gasol] help and he does a good job of using his length to his advantage. ... I'm not going to tell you any secrets, but I learned a lot. It's not going to surprise me, as it did last year."

Tuesday's loss to the Lakers that concluded the regular season was Boozer's only experience against them since then, and he posted 16 points and nine rebounds. Those numbers approach his averages during a difficult year that began with much promise but was derailed by injuries, eventually resulting in knee surgery.

In his absence, third-year forward Paul Millsap blossomed to a level that seemingly makes him more valuable and affordable to the Jazz than Boozer, who's scheduled to make $12.67 million next season to finish the six-year, $68 million contract he signed in the summer of 2004.

"There's a lot of guys that have decisions to make," said Jazz guard Deron Williams. "This could be a totally different team next year."

That's why this series is Boozer's chance to make a lasting impression for 2008-09. Fair to say, his image among the team's followers has not recovered from his '08 playoff troubles. He certainly did not help himself in December, when he was traveling with the team while injured and was quoted by ESPN.com as fully intending to opt of his contract in the interest of making more money this summer.

Boozer could have changed some opinions about himself with a strong finish, but the Jazz went only 15-11 the rest of the way -- even after winning the first eight games that followed his return. Boozer posted 15 points and 20 rebounds in a win over Houston in his fifth game back, but could not maintain that level of play.

This week, nearly two months after Boozer's comeback, coach Jerry Sloan both defended his gradual recovery and attributed some of the team's struggles to having to accommodate Boozer's acclimation.

"It was a progression ... getting more comfortable, my teammates getting used to me being out there and me getting used to them," Boozer said.

So where is he now, physically? Not 100 percent, but not making excuses.

"Can't worry about how close I am or how close I'm not," he said. "It's time to play."

For now, that's all anybody wants to hear. Beginning Sunday in Los Angeles, everybody will be watching for themselves.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com --

Vs. Lakers

Jazz forward Carlos Boozer's numbers against the L.A. Lakers in a 2008 playoff series:

Game Min. FG FT Pts.


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 17, 2009

 

 
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