Posted Jan 21 2010 10:24AM
SAN ANTONIO -- It was the legendary pitcher Satchel Paige who cautioned against looking back. Carlos Boozer's challenge is to not get caught looking too far ahead.
Where will he be a month from now?
Once the NBA trade deadline passes on Feb. 18, Boozer could find himself launching that high-arcing jumper in Miami. Or Chicago. Or Dallas. Or Detroit. Or maybe the one place he's hoping to be.
"Right here, with the Jazz," Boozer said. "If it was up to me, absolutely. But as you know, it's not up to me."
The trade rumors are always flying at this time of the season. This year, with the economy depressed and the NBA salary cap and luxury tax threshold sinking, the skies are more crowded than over London during the blitz.
It was Boozer who floated his own escape plans last summer when he made noises about playing in Miami and Chicago. That seemed to make his expiring $12.7 million contract one of the most likely to be moved.
Now though, as the deadline draws near, the 28-year-old forward is changing his tune.
"We've won five of our last six games," Boozer said. "Things are starting to come together with our team. We're playing some good basketball. We've beaten some good teams. If it's just about basketball and trying to win as many games as you can, then I'd say keep it all together. It's that simple."
Of course, it's never that simple. The Jazz, playing in one of the league's smallest markets, will have to pay the NBA luxury tax for the first time in franchise history if they don't trim roughly $8 million from their payroll. In addition, the team is already committed to paying nearly $57 million to seven players for the 2010-11 season.
Utah could keep Boozer through the end of the season and try to re-sign him when he becomes a free agent next summer. Or, they could attempt to move him along in a sign-and-trade deal. Then again, the Jazz could pull the trigger on a deal in the next four weeks.
But would they do it just when their consistency and confidence is coming together?
Boozer scored 31 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the 105-98 win that gave the Jazz their first series sweep over the Spurs since the 1997-98 season and allowed them to start the second half of the schedule within one game of last season's pace, at 24-18.
"I like the way things are going. I like the way it feels," Boozer said. "That's why my preference is to be here. Not just this year, but in the future.
"I hope that's an option. We'll see. They know. They know already how I feel. It's up to them. It's their situation. It's their money. It's their team. I'm a player.
"I'm not frustrated at all. I'm happy to be doing what I do, where I'm doing it. If I get a chance to stay longer in my career, I'll be happy. If they choose to go in a different direction, that's up to them."
All of which leaves Jazz coach Jerry Sloan in the middle.
"I don't get involved in that stuff," Sloan said. "I just coach who's here. That's what I've always done. That's all we can concentrate on. We can't concentrate on if and why.
"We sat down and talked when he came back this season. I'm gonna try to coach the best I can and he's got to play the best he can. That's how I would look at it. I think he's been very good.
"Carlos is aware of the fact that if he misses a free throw or he misses a basket, they're gonna boo him. That's the way life is, unfortunately. But he's been very good. I've enjoyed coaching him. I haven't had a problem with him through any of this.
"I understand what he's going through to a certain extent. But if you don't want those things to happen, don't come into the league. Don't get into basketball. Go get another job. That's part of the business. He's aware of that. He's been aware of it all along."
The Jazz already made one cost-cutting deal this season when they sent rookie guard Eric Maynor and the $6.5 million expiring contract of Matt Harpring to Oklahoma City.
"I have no control over that," Sloan said. "Those are the parameters we work under with our owners. We don't say, 'We need this or we need that.' We've never worked that way. We never worked that way when Larry (Miller) was alive and we don't do that with ownership now. We do the best we can with who is here and that's all we can do.
"Maynor's contract was small, but Matt Harpring's total package was big. Matt wasn't going to be able to play. It boiled down to getting quite a bit of relief, from what I understand, by only losing one player. In the end, that's a business decision. Our job is to play who's here, whatever the case may be. When you're trying to run it as a business and not a toy, then it's a different ballgame. It always has been."
Everyone in the Jazz locker room understands that.
"I don't read the papers and I don't listen to SportsCenter about any of that stuff," said Deron Williams. "I try not to think about it. I don't want to think about it."
Andrei Kirilenko shrugged.
"The talk, the rumors are always here," he said. "If it's not Booz, then it's me. We've got a core of guys who have been here now for several years. It's good feeling in this room and on the court. We don't want that to end. But if it does, well, we understand that is not basketball, it's business. After all, this is a business."
Where the clock is ticking and you can't get caught up looking back -- or ahead.
Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
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