Deron Williams looked more like a boxer than a basketball player.
Slumped down in a small chair, covered in white towels with his right wrist wrapped in a large bag of ice, the Jazz guard had just endured another tough game during an already tough season.
But then Williams' eyes suddenly brightened.
He had just been asked a series of questions about current Chicago and ex-Utah forward Carlos Boozer, who will make his official return to Salt Lake City on Wednesday night after trading his six-year Jazz jersey for a Bulls uniform last summer via free agency.
The controversial Boozer. The possibly bad-for-team-chemistry Boozer. The Boozer whose name sometimes became more synonymous with mysterious injuries than repeat playoff appearances. But the Boozer who also helped win games, which is what ultimately matters in professional sports.
And just like Utah's Jerry Sloan, Paul Millsap, C.J. Miles and Ronnie Price, Williams offered simple but earnest words of support.
"He's an easy guy to play with on offense. He gets you a lot of assists," said Williams, following Utah's 107-104 road win against Sacramento on Monday. "There's not many big men that can do what he does, night in and night out. He's very versatile, and he's a great player."
Sloan has stood by Boozer several times this season, saying that he has never understood why many Jazz fans questioned the star's integrity and dedication. Williams echoed his coach.
"He was hurt a couple years and fans try to question his toughness or him faking injuries," Williams said. "I never would think Booze would fake an injury. â¦ He always wanted to be around us and play."
Millsap offered a similar take, referring to Boozer as a good teammate with a good heart off and on the court.
"People hear a lot of stuff. Not necessarily true," Millsap said. "That can change a lot of opinions about a person. But to us, he was a good guy."
Williams acknowledged, though, that he has recently contacted current Bulls and ex-Jazz players Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer, but not Boozer.
Does the All-Star guard who has made it known that a 2010-11 Jazz team still adjusting to major offseason change does not perfectly mesh on the court miss Boozer?
"I can't say that," Williams said. "I've got Big Al [Jefferson] now."
Korver and Brewer are unquestionably missed. Millsap was especially close with Brewer, while Price keeps in contact with all three.
"It'll be a game that'll be very competitive," Price said. "You might not think that we're as good of friends when we're on the floor playing against each other."
Bulls vs. Jazz
P At EnergySolutions Arena
Tipoff • 7 p.m.
TV • FSN Utah
Radio • 1320 AM, 1600 AM, 98.7 FM
Records • Bulls 34-16, Jazz 31-22
Last meeting • Jazz, 132-108 (March 9, 2010)
About the Bulls • Chicago has lost two consecutive games after winning five straight. â¦ The Bulls rank third out of 30 teams in average points allowed (92.5). â¦ Point guard Derrick Rose ranks seventh in the NBA in points (24.6) and 10th in assists (8.2).
About the Jazz • Raja Bell (personal reasons), Francisco Elson (left knee inflammation), Paul Millsap (bruised left leg) and Mehmet Okur (strained lower back) did not practice Tuesday. Bell is expected to play against the Bulls, Millsap is probable, Elson is a game-time decision and Okur is out.