Boozer looks to build on a strong debut as the Jazz visit the Golden State Warriors.
Malone departed in 2003 after 18 seasons with Utah, leaving the Jazz without a player who could dominate in and around the paint.
The Jazz hope that’s changed with the signing of Boozer. The second-year player may be poised to become one of the NBA’s elite forwards after averaging 15.5 points and 11.4 rebounds for Cleveland in a breakout 2003-04 season, his second.
“Don’t even say that. Those are too big of shoes to fill,” Boozer said of assuming Malone’s role.
Boozer, who inked a six-year deal for $68 million during the summer, got his Jazz career off to a great start with 27 points and 11 rebounds in a 104-78 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.
Utah manhandled the defending Western Conference champions, holding a double-digit lead for most of the game. The Jazz blocked 14 shots and held the Lakers to 20 field goals, breaking the previous franchise low by three. Los Angeles shot 29.4 percent, also the worst in team history.
“It was definitely a little different. It opened up a lot on the inside,” Boozer said of facing a Lakers team without Shaquille O’Neal. “They have very good perimeter players, but we got them to make turnovers all game.”
The Jazz added some needed depth at guard Wednesday, signing veteran point guard Howard Eisley to a one-year deal. Eisley, waived by Phoenix last week, played for Utah from 1995-00 as John Stockton’s backup and has career averages of 6.8 points and 3.6 assists.
Arroyo injured his ankle last week in a preseason game at New York and is out for the first five games, while Lopez will be out three-to-four weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday.
The Warriors shot just 38.3 percent (31-for-81) from the field Wednesday to fall to 2-8 in their last 10 season openers with a 78-75 loss to Portland.
Mike Dunleavy scored 17 points but missed two 3-pointers in the final seven seconds, including one at the buzzer, to spoil the NBA debut of Golden State coach Mike Montgomery.
Richardson and Murphy combined to shoot 4-for-17 in the first half, two days after both received six-year contract extensions from the Warriors—Richardson for $70 million and Murphy for $58 million.
STANDINGS (through Nov. 3): Jazz - 1st place (tied), Northwest Division. Warriors - 4th place, 1 GB, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Jazz - Boozer, 27 ppg and 11 rpg; McLeod, 8 apg. Warriors - Dunleavy, 17 ppg; Murphy, 11 rpg; Claxton, 7 apg.
2003-04 SEASON SERIES: 2-2.
LAST MEETING: March 10; Jazz, 91-77. At Salt Lake City, the Jazz shot 59 percent and forced 14 turnovers in the first half to beat the Warriors for the 19th straight time at home, a streak dating to November 1994.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Jazz - 0-0 on the road; Warriors - 0-1 at home.