After everything that happened last summer, the NBA might have thought it would be getting a holiday homecoming for Carlos Boozer when it scheduled the Jazz and Chicago Bulls for a Thanksgiving night game at EnergySolutions Arena.
No matter, though, how much Boozer expressed his desire to be traded, no matter how much he entertained thoughts of playing elsewhere, the Jazz opted to stand their ground with the former All-Star forward, bringing him back for a sixth season in Utah.
From his sixth-row seat Thursday, Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor could have been forgiven for enjoying a helping of vindication after the turkey and mashed potatoes as Boozer delivered a devastating performance in the Jazz's 105-86 rout.
Boozer finished with 28 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three blocks while going 12 for 14 from the field. The Jazz shot 60.8 percent and built a 17-point lead in the first half in what was their first Thanksgiving game since moving to Utah.
"He stepped up in a big way," Deron Williams said. "You can see he's back to where he was a couple years ago when he was an All-Star. Hopefully, he can just keep producing like this because he's playing great on both ends of the floor."
"I think he's played some of his best basketball after we got through the start of the season," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan added. "He's playing like he's capable of playing."
Only 41/2 months ago, Boozer went on the Bulls' flagship radio station and asserted that he and the Jazz had mutually agreed to a trade. He went so far as to talk about the possibility of playing with Derrick Rose and recruiting Dwyane Wade as a free agent.
Even if his comments have been neither forgiven nor forgotten in some quarters, Boozer has moved forward. The Jazz (8-7) have gone 5-2 in their last seven games, with Boozer averaging 23.6 points and 10.7 rebounds while shooting 59.6 percent.
"I'm in a great groove, having a good time out there, my teammates are trying to find me and I'm just trying to put the ball in the hole and get us a win," Boozer said. "The biggest thing for us is to take advantage of being at home."
Boozer got off to a fast start, scoring six straight points in the opening four minutes, and finished the first half with 16 points, six rebounds and five assists while hitting all seven shots he attempted.
He came back in the second half to hit a baseline jumper over Joakim Noah as part of a three-point play as Noah reached in for a foul. Boozer dunked off a pick-and-roll for a second three-point play in the third quarter.
Chicago coach Vinny Del Negro described Boozer as having a "dominant game with his scoring and rebounding." Boozer was asked afterward if he was happy he stayed in Utah.
"I've told you guys, if they keep us together we could be really good," Boozer said.
Williams (21 points), Ronnie Brewer (15), Mehmet Okur (14) and Paul Millsap (12) all finished in double figures for the Jazz, who handed the Bulls their fourth consecutive loss and recovered after Tuesday's loss to Oklahoma City.
"We just looked like a different team tonight," Williams said. The Jazz combined for 10 steals and eight blocks as a team.
It was a feel-good night all around for the 18,045 in attendance. The Jazz even punked a fan into believing he'd won $1 million -- With their luxury-tax bill? Come on -- by hitting a half-court shot before the start of the fourth quarter.
"I really thought he hit it," said Williams, who was looking down at the time. "I said 'Booz you might not be No. 1 on 'SportsCenter' any more. That was a great prank, though."
The Jazz never looked back after opening the second quarter with a 12-4 run to take a 40-26 lead. Millsap stripped Brad Miller and scored off a layup at the other end. He followed with a jumper and an impressive tip-in off an Eric Maynor miss.
As the Bulls missed both inside and outside, Williams worked the pick-and-roll for two scores as the Jazz went up 14. Williams drew hulking Chicago center Aaron Gray in one sequence, then dumped a pass to Boozer, who hit Millsap for an easy basket.
Boozer later stole a rebound away from Noah as he followed up a Brewer miss and then cut for a layup with 1:40 left. The Jazz closed the half with a 57-40 lead after Boozer found Brewer along the baseline for a dunk with 3.2 seconds left.
"That's a terrific night for him," Sloan said of Boozer. "We got him the basketball where he could do something with it. . ... He should have the ball inside if he works hard to get it."
In short » The Jazz roll to victory over the Bulls behind Carlos Boozer's 28 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three blocks.
Key moment » Boozer hits Ronnie Brewer for a baseline dunk with 3.2 seconds left to give the Jazz a 57-40 halftime lead.