Utah (43-22) at Cleveland (40-25)

Cloudy Currently: Cleveland, OH
Temp: 31° F
  • Game info: 7:30 pm EDT Sat Mar 17, 2007
  • TV: NBATV, FSOH
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Nearly three years after a messy parting, Carlos Boozer finally returns to Cleveland to the face to the Cavaliers and their fans.

After spurning the Cavaliers to sign a more lucrative contract with the Jazz, Boozer makes his long-awaited return to Cleveland as Utah continues its four-game road trip on Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena.

A second-round draft pick from Duke in 2002, Boozer averaged 12.6 points and 9.4 rebounds in his first two seasons with the Cavaliers, and was due to make $695,000 in the option year of his contract.

Cleveland chose not to exercise the option—making him a restricted free agent and believing he’d accept a six-year deal worth about $38.6 million to stay with the team. Boozer then signed a six-year, $68 million offer sheet from Utah.

That’s when things turned acrimonious. The Cavaliers refused to match Utah’s offer, saying they had an agreement with Boozer that if they declined his option, he would remain with the team.

“I decided to trust Carlos and show him the respect he asked for. He did not show that trust and respect in return,” then-owner Gordon Gund said.

Boozer, meanwhile, has said he never agreed to a long-term deal with Cleveland, and that the Cavaliers intentionally attacked his reputation and character by alleging he was going back on a promise.

In his first two seasons since joining the Jazz, though, Boozer has struggled with foot and hamstring injuries that have limited him to a total of 84 games and prevented him from playing in Cleveland. This season, he was sidelined for eight games from Jan. 29-Feb. 20 with a fractured left fibula.

Still, he was named an All-Star for the first time and is averaging career highs of 20.9 points and 11.5 rebounds. Cleveland replaced Boozer with Drew Gooden, but his numbers have been slightly worse—the former Kansas product has averaged 12.2 points and 8.7 boards while with the Cavaliers.

The streaking Cavaliers (40-25) are looking for their eighth straight win, and will look to LeBron James to narrow the gap to the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference. James returned to the lineup after missing one game with back spasms and had 29 points, including four 3-pointers, in a 118-96 rout of Memphis on Wednesday night.

Gooden added 12 points and 10 rebounds for his second straight double-double as the Cavs led by as many as 33 against the team with the league’s worst record

“Right now, we can’t relax because we have to look at the big picture,” said Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who had 18 points. “But right now, we are satisfied with the way we played these last few games.”.

The Cavaliers trail the Pistons by only 2 1/2 games for Eastern Conference lead.

The Jazz (43-22), meanwhile, have lost consecutive games in Cleveland by an average of 22.0 points, and are trying to avoid their first four-game road losing streak since Jan. 16-Feb. 5, 2006.

In an 89-88 loss to Philadelphia on Friday night, Boozer gave the Jazz a late lead before the Sixers’ Kyle Korver scored the winning basket with just over 5 seconds left.

Boozer finished with 14. Deron Williams had 18 points and 16 assists, and Mehmet Okur added 15 points and 10 rebounds.

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Saturday, Mar 17