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Boozer's stay in Utah could be over

Boozer's stay in Utah could be over
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Carlos Boozer could be one of the top three big men on the free-agent market

SALT LAKE CITY – As Carlos Boozer(notes) dressed in the Utah Jazz's locker room, he didn't spend much time reflecting on whether he might have just played his final game for the franchise. Less than an hour removed from getting knocked out of the playoffs, Boozer still seemed in shock and was trying to make sense of the Jazz's embarrassing second-round sweep by the Los Angeles Lakers.

Boozer will become a free agent this summer, and although the Jazz claim to want him back, there will be a heavy business element to his decision. This could be his last major contract.

"Obviously, keep your cards close to your chest, one," Boozer said. "Two, the unfortunate thing about basketball is it turns into a business sometimes. It takes some of the fun away from it. Unfortunately, that's part of it."

Boozer angered Jazz fans last summer by saying he'd like to play for either the Chicago Bulls or Miami Heat, both of who figure to rank among the biggest spending teams on free agents. At the start of the season, Boozer was widely expected to be moved by the trade deadline, but Jazz coach Jerry Sloan repeatedly stressed he wanted to keep the power forward.

"I wanted to have a chance to win. I think everyone wants that, and he's a very good player who can help you win," Sloan said Monday.

Boozer responded with a strong season, averaging 19.5 points and 11.2 rebounds, but struggled in his final game, scoring just 10 points before fouling out.

"I'm just disappointed, man; sad," Boozer said. "I can't believe this is over already. We expected to win. Everyone in this locker room expected to win tonight."

NBA sources say the Jazz would like to re-sign him, though it remains to be seen at what cost.

"Carlos has certainly done a good job this year and has been a great teammate," Jazz president Kevin O'Connor said. "He has certainly solidified his position as one of the better power forwards in our league. Now it's his turn to reap the rewards."

Boozer admits he's had some "ups and downs in Utah," but he also says his family has adjusted to and enjoys living in Salt Lake City now.

"He's a very important part," Jazz center Mehmet Okur(notes) said. "He's been here six years. When you talk about myself, we really complete each other. I give him open looks because I'm shooting outside. He gives me open looks because he's open inside. As a teammate, he's great. He dominates inside for us.

"Hopefully, he sticks around with me."

Boozer will be one of the top free agents on the market and figures to join the Toronto Raptors' Chris Bosh(notes) and the Phoenix Suns' Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) as the three best big men available if Dirk Nowitzki(notes) stays with the Dallas Mavericks. He might not land a max contract, but it will certainly be lucrative. His price figures to escalate if LeBron James(notes) and Dwyane Wade(notes) stay in Cleveland and Miami, respectively.

If Boozer wants to go elsewhere, a sign-and-trade deal could become an option because it would allow him to add a year onto his contract. One NBA general manager said Boozer could receive a five-year, $70 million deal that falls short of the maximum.

When asked why he thought Boozer wasn't worthy of the max, the GM said: "His age, injury history, defensive limitations, the alternatives at the power forward position and that fact that he is the second option place his market value below max. He's got character, is a great teammate, productive and competes every night. Any organization would be lucky to have him, but he can't get you to the Promised Land on his own."

If Boozer leaves, the Jazz would still have promising young power forward Paul Millsap(notes) and could add another young big man with the lottery pick they've acquired from the New York Knicks. Sloan wants Boozer back, but is prepared for the worst.

"I don't worry about that," Sloan said. "Shandon Anderson helped us tremendously. After the two years he played, he was really instrumental with our team. His contract's up and he's gone. We lose Derek Fisher(notes). You can spend all summer worrying about who is going to play. Somebody is going to come in and play. It might not be as good as what you have, but that's how the business is. Today you might have a good player. Tomorrow, you might not."