Carlos Boozer’s Utah Jazz won’t be visiting Cleveland until March, but it’s doubtful Cavs fans will have forgiven or forgotten the power forward by that timei. The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Jodie Valande reports :
For the rest of his life, Carlos Boozer could be known as a snake. A swindler and a crook. Another money-hungry athlete without a conscience or a sense of loyalty. A liar.
Conspiracy theories abound about how, exactly, Boozer earned free-agent status from the Cavaliers when they declined to pick up the $700,000 option for the final year on the bargain contract that paid him $750,000 last season. Did he make a promise to re-sign with the Cavaliers, a vow that clearly would have violated the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement?
Was there, at the very minimum, a “wink-wink” understanding that the Cavaliers released Boozer from his underpriced contract only to re- sign him for a hefty raise?
How involved was Boozer’s outspoken wife, CeCe, who was a part of every negotiation meeting?
And what does it mean that Cavaliers owner Gordon Gund, one of the most respected and honorable NBA team owners, wrote an open letter declaring outright betrayal by Boozer?
The easiest way to change the topic, Boozer has found, is to play like the dominant power forward he always thought he could be — and the one he thought he’d never have an opportunity to be for the Cavaliers.
Money, you see, wasn’t the only reason he left Cleveland.
In Utah, Boozer has become the focus of Jazz coach Jerry Sloan’s inside-outside game. Though the Jazz has struggled this season once Andrei Kirilenko left the lineup with a knee injury, Boozer’s 20.2 points and 9.7 rebounds have remained steady.
Carlos Boozer has moved on. Which is not to say that he isn’t concerned about his image and his past. He knows that his name conjures scowls in Cleveland. It didn’t help his claims of innocence when Boozer’s agent throughout the negotiations with the Cavaliers, Rob Pelinka of SFX, severed his ties with Boozer and gave up his commission on the contract after public indignation about Boozer’s apparent bait-and-switch.
“I’m disappointed in how I was portrayed,” Boozer said. “One minute I’m the perfect sidekick to LeBron, a great community guy, and the next minute I’m a snake. How does that happen?”
It depends on whom you believe in the he-said, they-said story.
The Cavaliers’ only comment on the Boozer defection came in an open letter to fans written by Gund last summer. In it, Gund detailed a negotiation process that he said Boozer manipulated to earn more money.
“In the final analysis, I decided to trust Carlos and show him the respect he asked for,” Gund wrote. “He did not show that trust and respect in return.”
If there are any regrets in the past year, Boozer said, it’s that he no longer has a relationship with Gund. If anything hurt in the ordeal, Boozer said, it’s that Gund called him a liar.
“I’m not that guy,” Boozer said. “I’m not a guy who lies.”
He is someone who has learned lessons. Never too open about his personal life, Boozer continues to keep invasive questions at arm’s length, and is quick to exit conversations with reporters.
Once candid and forthcoming about her husband and their lives, CeCe now is hesitant to talk to anyone associated with Cleveland. Mention of the city stirs bitter memories.
“You guys have an interesting spin on things in Cleveland,” CeCe said as she walked to her baseline seat at a recent Jazz game. “Everyone there does.”