By Dan Evans
Special to Salt City Hoops
The trouble with analogies is that they often are so specific to the person giving the analogy that rarely does it translate well to the people hearing it. We’ve all spent our fair share of time listening to someone comparing why life is like [insert their passion here]. Unfortunately, I don’t understand how life is like sewing, nor do I care. With that in mind, I want to close the book on the Carlos Boozer Era with a small-ish comparison.
When I was in high school, I dated a girl that I thought was way out of my league. Before “Jen”, I’d dated only girls that were available to me, not the girls I necessarily wanted to date; I never strayed from my place in the food chain. I assumed that was where I belonged and I was happy to take what I could get.
Along came Jen. She was on the Drill Team and dated guys with nice cars. We hit it off in class (I told jokes, she laughed). Soon our relationship moved outside of school and we started hanging out. Eventually we were dating and having fun… when I learned what I was dealing with.
Jen was used to a ton of attention; she was used to getting her way. More importantly, she was used to guys who pandered to her nonsense. Given my dating experience with girls who were simply grateful to be around me, navigating Jen’s world was a bit of a shock. I was so excited to be dating her that I put up everything she did: the inconsistencies, the weird excuses, the tantrums, and the general brattiness that a very spoiled person shows. After a month or so, I started to sense her pulling away, which made me even more desperate to keep her, and even more eager to please her. This, of course, was annoying to her and eventually drove her to break up with me.
The day came, I was sad, and felt sorry for myself for a minute. But as time went on I could see her brattiness more clearly and eventually realized I dodged a bullet. After the dust settled, I realized that I could date an awesome girl AND be happy – a huge revelation at the time. I saw Jen last year at a party, and couldn’t help but feel sorry for the guy she was with. Imagine the crap he puts up with.
So, all that talk brings me to Boozer. When he signed with the Jazz he was the first major free agent to come to Utah. (When Jeff Malone and an aging Jeff Hornacek are your competition, it’s an easy win). As a fan base we were so excited to get him that the unwise among us neglected to give proper weight to the fact that he double crossed a benevolent blind man to come to the Jazz. Huge red flag. (Another red flag? Renting his house in LA to Prince. It’s like something narrated by Charlie Murphy in a Dave Chappell skit).
We were so excited to have a major free agent choose us that most of us didn’t do proper due diligence on the investment. We bought into his story about teaming with Deron Williams to bring the Next Stockton-to-Malone. We got stoked about the 20/10’s he’d post, and about the ambidexterity. It was exciting!
The 04/05 season set the tone: he started out well, and then injury struck. 51 games played.
05/06 missed more than half of the season due to injury. At the end of that season, I remember much of the talk about him being about getting rid of him. We were sick of him. Hated him. Couldn’t stand him. 33 games played that season.
Preseason in 06/07 was all about how he was excited about the team, wanted to play hard, etc. Boozer’s back was against the wall, and he delivered his two finest statistical seasons. I distinctly remember after the 07/08 season being very hopeful that he’d extend his contract.
08/09: Injuries, trade rumors (if you remember, almost constant that season), and listless play. After the season, with rampant speculation that he’d opt out of his contract, he decided to do the noble thing and stay for another season. No need to mention that he decided to stay in Utah in the weakest market for free agents in years, but only after testing the market. 37 games played that season.
09/10: Another exercise in frustration with the Boozehound with inconsistent play being chief among the frustrations. From a fan’s perspective, Boozer appeared to play hard when he felt like it, not play hard when faced with even the smallest obstacle, and team chemistry suffered since nobody could know on a given night which Boozer they’d get. The season ended in disappointment with Boozer sitting out the pivotal last game of the regular season with a sore rib, and of course, he decided to leave. He was always all about taking care of himself.
The Jazz fan reaction was fatalistic, outraged, depressed. Most of the chatter was along the lines of: “KOC is screwing up the franchise, we can’t keep anybody here long, Utah is a bad place to play, etc.” It was two straight weeks of fans and the local media talking about the Jazz being a little kid in a big boy world. Then something wonderful happened: The Jazz traded for Al Jefferson.
Jefferson is not too far off the Boozer path statistically, several years younger, and bigger than Boozer. His opening press conference was something of a revelation: He was grateful, happy, and even a little giddy to be a Jazzman – stopping just short of kissing Deron Williams on the mouth. He showed the type of unbridled enthusiasm usually reserved for kids at Disneyland. He even spoke about how Utah is an awesome place to live and how he wants to recruit other free agents. To hear him speak that way was refreshing. It was a huge relief to not only bolster the Jazz roster, but bolster it with someone so happy to be here.
See, the Jazz have plenty to offer a free agent. The Jazz have been a winning team for a quarter century, boast a top 3 point guard, one of the best coaches in the game, a very smart management team, and an owner willing to improve the team. The Jazz don’t have to put up with guys like Boozer to have production. The pieces are already in place to attract the types of free agents that the Jazz need to build a consistent contender. Now all we need as a fan base is to start acting like we’ve been there. If we do that, people will come.
I, for one, am looking forward to a brave new era of Utah attracting free agents who are excited to be here. In the meantime, we will enjoy another winning season, and perhaps someday we’ll have an awkward encounter with Carlos Boozer at a party. Hopefully he’s in a good place and is having success. But what a nice feeling to walk away relieved to be in a better place ourselves.
Dan Evans is a new contributor to Salt City Hoops. Follow him on Twitter.