Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Carlos Boozer: Underappreciated In Utah, But Welcomed Back In Juneau, Alaska Where He's Running A Youth Basketball Camp

Utah Jazz forward Carlos Boozer has been the subject of growing controversy among NBA fans in the Beehive State during the past year. His status with the Jazz is ambiguous at best - one day, he's going to Chicago, the next day, it's Miami, the third day, he's staying put. Neither the Jazz nor Boozer seem to be able to make up their minds about his future.

But what Boozer made up his mind to do long ago is to give something back to the community where he grew up. And so he's taken a trip back to Juneau, Alaska to run a youth basketball camp - and to help the young people in that community become more resistant to recreational drugs. Boozer played his prep ball at Juneau-Douglas High School.

Juneau has a growing problem with OxyContin. Just today, the Juneau Empire reported that two more teenagers were busted for possession and sale of OxyContin. So Boozer, who said he has been inundated with pleas to talk to kids about the problem since he returned to Juneau, has decided to use his influence to warn kids away from the stuff; he's disappointed that they are experimenting with drugs.

And Boozer discussed the issue in this other Juneau Empire article. "When I was in school, I don't remember there being a drug problem," Boozer said. "Maybe I'm naive, or I was oblivious to it because I was playing basketball so much, but I don't remember there being a problem like this. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there were some guys that had a couple beers here and there, maybe experimented with marijuana every once in a while, but OxyContin? You can get hooked on it at 13, 14 years old, and now it's not, 'How can we take care of our kids?' It's, 'How can we wean them off of this drug because they're addicted to it.'"

And Boozer has received much positive feedback. "I've been in town for less than a week, and I've heard from people around town, 'Thank you for coming back, can you please talk about drugs.' I've heard it every day I've been here, from businesses that are sponsoring my camp, from a parent, a friend, a mother, a grandmother, from a coach - from everybody," Boozer continued. "So for me, I'm a figure in this community, and I have no problem standing up and telling kids not to do drugs. I don't do them and I tell them the same thing I tell my kids, 'If you have something you want to achieve in life, you're not going to achieve it doing drugs. Drugs will help you get nowhere but the wrong places, either dead or behind bars," he concluded.

To his credit, Carlos Boozer has not uttered a single word of complaint about the ambiguity of his status with the Jazz to the local media. Indeed, he spoke very little about his situation with the Jazz, instead talking about his desire to represent the U.S. in the 2012 Olympics. He's gone back to Juneau strictly to give back to his former community, and not to cry on their shoulder. Sounds like a class act.

As for his situation with the Jazz, the Salt Lake Tribune outlined three options on August 7th:

-- The Jazz get an offer they like -- either before the start of training camp in September or early in the season -- and trade the final year of Boozer's $12.7 million contract to another team.

-- The Jazz keep Boozer for the first three months of the season but, because they are not contending and fear he will eventually walk away without the team getting any compensation, deal him just before the NBA trade deadline.

-- The Jazz keep Boozer and, because they are playing well and contending at the trade deadline, keep him until the end of the season. He becomes an unrestricted free agent and re-signs with Utah or another team in the summer of 2010.

Increasingly, the latter option appears to be the most likely option. I think that too many people were expecting Carlos Boozer to become Karl Malone the Second. But they failed to consider the differences. Malone was a classic power forward who was an ironman (played 80 or more games in 17 of his 18 seasons with the Jazz) capable of carrying a team by himself. Boozer is not quite as durable (he's played 74 or more games in only two of his five seasons with the Jazz), emphasizes finesse more than power, and requires a team around him. Compare Malone's career stats with those of Boozer. So Jazz fans have become impatient, although the team does well and makes the playoffs.

I think we'll see a more aggressive and durable Carlos Boozer during this upcoming season, as he will be anxious to prove his detractors wrong, as well as optimize his bargaining position by the end of his current contract. The guy clearly has gotten unnecessary bad press.

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