Miami » The Jazz weren't scheduled to fly out of Atlanta until Thursday afternoon, but Carlos Boozer didn't want to waste a moment with the chance to get home and see his family in the middle of this five-game trip.
He arranged to leave immediately after Wednesday's loss to the Hawks and arrived in his adopted hometown after midnight. His young sons woke him up at 6 a.m., and Boozer had a full day to enjoy an NBA version of spring break.
Back home in Miami, the question now is when Boozer will be back to his former self. Having played eight games since his return from left knee surgery, Boozer said he is about 85 percent, but still struggling with his jumping and conditioning.
"The more I step on the court, the more comfortable I am," Boozer said. "More practice, more games, more whatever it is, the better I feel."
Boozer has averaged 10.4 points and 8.9 rebounds in 26.4 minutes since returning, with Jazz coach Jerry Sloan caught in a balancing act of trying to bring his All-Star forward up to speed but not at the expense of team cohesion.
"He's got to be patient with us a little bit because of that," Sloan said. "I think sometimes he probably gets a little frustrated with me pulling him in and out. All we're trying to do is win the ball game.
"I think his conditioning, it's a little bit better, but you can't miss as many games as he has and be in shape."
Boozer's return to Miami figured to be a bigger story months ago, after a summer in which he was linked to the Heat as a potential free agent. But Boozer's injury combined with Miami's acquisition of Jermaine O'Neal from Toronto has quieted the matter.
Whatever salary-cap space the Heat might have had this summer disappeared after taking on the $23 million O'Neal is owed for 2009-10 in the trade for Shawn Marion 's expiring contract. Boozer, meanwhile, missed 44 games after injuring his knee Nov. 18.
After saying in December that he still planned to opt out of his contract, Boozer was asked Friday if his three-month absence had prompted him to rethink his free-agent plans. He said his only focus was on winning a championship with the Jazz.
The national recession is expected to lead to a drop in the NBA's salary cap and luxury-tax threshold this summer. As a potential free agent, Boozer was asked whether the economy would play a part in his opt-out decision.
"The economy sucks, man," Boozer said. "Just to be quite frank about it, it sucks for everybody. My family, your family, you, me, everybody. It's something else we'll have to talk about this summer, too."
Deron Williams drew the distinction between Dwyane Wade having an "MVP season" with Miami and the likelihood he will be selected MVP with Miami owning a 35-29 record. But Williams acknowledged Wade's numbers have been "off the charts" recently.
Wade comes into today's game having scored 40 points or more in four of his last seven games and averaging 37.2 points, 10.7 assists and 6.2 rebounds in March. Boozer said the Heat would be "nowhere near in the playoffs" without Wade.
"I knew he was back this summer watching him play with us," said Williams, who was Olympic teammates with Wade, "but he's just taken it to another level."
At AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami
Tipoff » Today, 11 a.m.
TV » FSN Utah
Radio » 1320 AM, 98.7 FM
Records » Jazz 41-24, Heat 35-29
Last meeting » Heat, 93-89 (Dec. 3)
Line: Heat by 1
About the Jazz » Ronnie Brewer will draw the defensive assignment of slowing Dwyane Wade, coach Jerry Sloan said. ... Wade scored 23 points but played only 32 minutes because of foul trouble as Miami beat the Jazz 93-89 in Utah on Dec. 3.
About the Heat » Not only did Wade hit a three-pointer to beat Chicago in double overtime Monday, but he also finished with 48 points, 12 assists and hit 15 of 21 shots. The only other player to post those numbers in a game was Wilt Chamberlain, who had 53 points, 14 assists and made 24 of 29 shots in March 1968.