San Antonio » A month from today, Carlos Boozer will wake up with the uncertainty over for himself and the Jazz. Maybe he will be in Oakland, Calif., where the Jazz on Feb. 19 will play the Golden State Warriors in the third stop of a four-game trip.
Maybe Boozer will be in Chicago or Miami, the two teams to which he expressed his desire to be traded last summer. Maybe Boozer will be in Dallas or Detroit, two teams to which he already has been linked in trade talk this season.
As the Jazz prepare to open the second half of their season, beginning with Wednesday's game against the Spurs, they do so facing a month of unpredictability in regard to Boozer ahead of the Feb. 18 trade deadline.
Asked after Sunday's loss in Denver if he thought he was more likely staying in Utah than heading elsewhere, Boozer only could voice what he would do in the position of Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor and chief executive Greg Miller.
"If I was them, I wouldn't make a trade," Boozer said. "But I'm not them. I think, I mean, you keep this group together. We're getting healthy, guys are getting better, we're rolling, we've won four out of our last five, which is great.
"Hopefully, we're going to win another four out of our next five. We can be good. We can beat anybody on any given night. That's what I would do. But Kevin, Greg, they've got to make their decisions."
With the Jazz owning a 23-18 record and only a victory off last season's pace at the 41-game mark, Boozer made one of his strongest statements since returning to Utah following an acrimonious summer in which he and the organization were at odds.
"That's why I would keep us together," Boozer said in reference to the Jazz's record. "In this business, it comes down to financial stuff, and I don't know what their situation is. But if it's about just winning, maybe that should be the deciding factor."
Although they could opt to trade Boozer, the Jazz just as easily could opt to keep him through the season. Afterward, the Jazz could look to re-sign Boozer as a free agent this summer or try to facilitate a sign-and-trade deal with him.
However, with $56.7 million already committed to seven players for 2010-11, the Jazz have to be careful to avoid pushing their payroll into luxury-tax territory for a second consecutive season.
Should they keep Boozer, the Jazz face the prospect of being luxury-tax payers for the first time in franchise history at season's end, though they alleviated some of the burden with last month's trade that sent Eric Maynor and injured forward Matt Harpring to Oklahoma City.
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was asked if he was concerned about keeping his team together and focused amid so much uncertainty.
"I can't worry about that," Sloan said. "That's something I again tell them at the beginning of the year. If you don't like this business -- and there's the possibility of a trade -- don't get in it, because that's something people talk about all the time."
Boozer said he was trying to live in the moment and enjoy the season. "I don't want to take anything away from that by worrying about what I can't control," he said. How does he plan to approach the next month?
"For me, I swear I just take it a day at a time," Boozer said. "There's a lot of rumors out there, a lot of what-ifs, blah-blah-blah. I just take it one day at a time and enjoy what I'm doing. It's out of my control, as you guys know and others do.
"I'm here, enjoying basketball, loving it, doing my job well and trying to help our team win. I know it's a business, though. So I'm sure the Jazz are getting calls left and right trying to figure out what they want to do with their future.
"You've got to talk to them about that. But from my perspective, all I can do is take it a day at a time and go to work every day, work hard and kick butt."
Once they reach the trade deadline, the Jazz will finish the season with a road-heavy schedule. They will play 19 of 31 games after the All-Star break away from home, where they have gone just 7-12 this season.
Sloan stressed the need to win on the road as the Jazz's biggest concern for the second half. "If you're going to be in the playoffs [and] you're not going to have home-court advantage, you'd better learn how to win some games on the road," he said.
The Jazz were plagued by inconsistency in the first half, capable of beating San Antonio, Orlando and the Lakers at home in the span of one week but also losing twice to Minnesota as well as to a Denver team missing Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups.
They closed the first half in seventh place in the Western Conference, playoff position but precarious just the same. After bringing back 12 players from last season, the Jazz had hoped to see more growth from within the team.
"We'd always like to be better than we are right now," Deron Williams said. "You don't want to be sitting at the seventh spot. But there's a lot of basketball left."
The Jazz reached the 41-game mark of their season at 23-18. A look at how that compares with previous seasons.
|Season||First half||Second half||Final record|
Jazz coach Jerry Sloan even admitted Sunday in Denver that his team probably played better when several players were out with injuries than it has at full strength. That was the same story the second half of last season. http://blogs.sltrib.com/jazz
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