Jazz: No apologies
Whatever issues remain to be resolved behind closed doors between Carlos Boozer, his teammates and the Jazz organization, Kyle Korver did his part Friday to put the best public face on Boozer's return to Utah.
With Boozer facing reporters at media day, Korver waded into the fray to pronounce himself "really offended" by Boozer's summer comments, before declaring that he could make amends by promising him six kickouts for open three-pointers this season.
For such an assist from Korver, Boozer went a step further, offering 10 kickouts, and Korver left laughing. It proved to be the afternoon's lone lighthearted moment as Boozer offered no apologies following his offseason trade campaign.
Boozer insisted that his intention was to promote his Juneau, Alaska, basketball camp when he expressed a desire to be traded in a series of interviews, going so far as to name Chicago and Miami as preferred destinations.
"Let me address that right now," Boozer said. "I got asked the question -- I was doing an interview for my basketball camp in Alaska -- I got asked the question if I got traded here, if I got traded there, would you want to go?
"If I get traded, I don't have a choice but to go, so I said, 'If I get traded, yeah, I'll go.' Nonetheless, I'm here, I'm back in Utah. I'm excited to be here, ready to move forward, get on the court with my teammates and see how good we can be this year."
Boozer said he felt no need to clarify his comments sooner and was adamant that he had been told this summer he was not part of the Jazz's future plans. "I got that message from management," Boozer said.
That message, Boozer suggested, was delivered when the team declined to offer him a contract extension after he decided June 30 to play the final year of his contract at $12.7 million rather than becoming a free agent.
"I felt like I was one of the pieces of the puzzle of trying to get this team where we wanted to go," Boozer said.
Although general manager Kevin O'Connor acknowledged Friday that he spoke with Boozer's agent, Rob Pelinka, on the subject of an extension, Boozer also had a conversation with chief executive Greg Miller in July.
Boozer declined to elaborate on their conversation. During his interviews this summer, Boozer claimed that he and the organization had mutually agreed to a trade. "That's over and done with," he said Friday.
He added that he was "surprised, but I'm happy" to be back for a sixth season in Utah. He returned to town Thursday and arrived early at the practice facility Friday to meet with coach Jerry Sloan.
"I told him I'm going to lay it out there for him every night like I always do," Boozer said, "bust my tail in practice, work hard with my teammates, make a commitment to being a better defensive player, which should help our team win."
"You don't know how a team's going to react," Sloan said. "I think he's aware of that, but from my conversation with him, he indicated he's going to do everything he could to play as well as he could. What more can you ask?"
For starters, Boozer was asked how he took the Jazz's decision to match Portland's four-year, $32 million offer sheet to keep backup forward Paul Millsap.
"To me, I don't feel any threat at all," Boozer said, adding that he was happy for Millsap. "Me and Paul played a lot together already last season and I'm looking forward to seeing what we do this year together."
With the Jazz's payroll having ballooned to $82 million -- some $12 million into luxury-tax territory -- Boozer still could be moved before the NBA's Feb. 18 trade deadline. How can he be fully invested with the Jazz given such circumstances?
"I'm committed," said Boozer, who pronounced himself healthy after undergoing knee surgery and missing 44 games last season. "I told coach I'm committed to being here, I told my teammates the same thing."
For all the trade options they were believed to have explored, the Jazz brought back Boozer believing he would have to produce heading into free agency. Does Boozer feel that urgency the same way?
"I'm a great ballplayer when I'm able to be on the court," Boozer said. "And for me, I've got to prove everything on the court. Talking is one thing and doing it is something else, so I'm looking forward to doing a lot and I'm looking forward to our team doing a lot."
With the Jazz now having a greater investment in Millsap than Boozer, Sloan was asked if he had a starting power forward going into training camp.
"I don't think you make any decisions right now," he said, "because there's certain things that guys have got to do and we've got to see how we're going to play together, who's going to play. I don't think anything's in stone. I know they're both very talented guys."
Part of the solution might come with playing Millsap at times as a small forward, something Sloan already has discussed.
"We will have to make a spot for those guys if they play like we expect them to play," Sloan said, adding, "There's always minutes for guys who want to play and get the job done. And I said get the job done, not just play. By that, we've got to win."
After he re-signed with the Jazz, Millsap spoke of taking the next step and becoming a starter. But if he now has to come off the bench, Millsap would be willing, saying of Boozer's return, "I feel like we've got a better chance to go further in the playoffs."
"Carlos has proven that he can play basketball," Millsap added, "and playing behind him another year or two or however long he's going to be [here], it's good for me, better for me. I'm going to try to continue to learn from him."
The rest of the Jazz were equally supportive. Deron Williams greeted Boozer by saying, "Let's play ball," while Andrei Kirilenko also welcomed back the former All-Star. "We know him very well, how he can play, so we're still counting on him," Kirilenko said.
During Boozer's 10-minute session with reporters, the closest he came to expressing contrition came in response to a question about how much he lauded the prospect of playing for the Bulls and Heat, Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade.
"Sometimes you put your foot in your mouth and I've definitely had my fair share of putting my foot in my mouth a few times," Boozer said, before again insisting he simply was answering questions in those interviews.
The potential for distractions is great, with no certainty that Boozer will finish the season in Utah. More questions are sure to follow, in every city where a team has free-agent money to spend next summer or is looking to make a trade this season.
"I probably have a lot to prove," Boozer acknowledged. "Not only to the fans, but everybody. To myself, to my teammates, to the coaches, to the fans, to whoever. But for me, I'm looking forward to doing that."
Departures » C Jarron Collins (Portland), G Morris Almond (Orlando), G Brevin Knight (unsigned)
Arrivals » G Eric Maynor
Transactions » June: Exercised option ($870,000) to bring back C Kyrylo Fesenko; Drafted G Eric Maynor and C Goran Suton; G Kyle Korver, C Mehmet Okur and F Carlos Boozer all declined to opt out of contracts. July: Re-signed G Ronnie Price to two-year, $2.6 million contract; matched Portland's four-year, $32 million offer sheet to F Paul Millsap. September: Announced that F Matt Harpring will miss all of training camp, preseason and start of regular season with ankle and foot injuries.
When » Today through Wednesday
Where » Jazz practice facility. All sessions are closed to the public
Preseason opener » Thursday vs. Denver, EnergySolutions Arena, 7 p.m.
Preseason schedule » Oct. 6, vs. Chicago (London) 12:30 p.m.; Oct. 8, vs. Real Madrid (Madrid, Spain) 12:45 p.m.; Oct. 15, vs. Portland, 7 p.m.; Oct. 17, at L.A. Clippers, 5:30 p.m.; Oct. 18, at Charlotte/L.A. Lakers, 5:30 p.m./8:30 p.m.; Oct. 20, at Portland 8 p.m.; Oct. 23, at Sacramento, 8 p.m.
Regular-season opener » Oct. 28, at Denver, 8:30 p.m.
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