Bulls' Boozer ready for Jazz, fans
SALT LAKE CITY -- As a crowd of local reporters filed into the massive Utah Jazz practice facility Tuesday, there was a general consensus that Bulls forward Carlos Boozer would hear boos when he returns to Energy Solutions Arena as a visiting player.
Boozer spent six years in Utah, made the All-Star Game twice and helped lead the Jazz to the 2007 Western Conference finals.
But maybe he missed too many games with injuries, didn't hug the community hard enough or seemed a little too eager to get out of town.
He did mention to a Chicago radio station how much he'd enjoy playing for the Bulls -- back in 2009 before he decided to stay with the Jazz for another season.
"I'm looking forward to it," Boozer said of Wednesday night's game against the Jazz. "I'll probably hear some boos, probably hear some cheers. Most places we go, I hear boos, so I'm not worried about it. It's going to be a fun night."
Boozer generally took the high road when asked his memories of Salt Lake City or about the reception he may receive. The muscular power forward did try to spin the situation into his favor.
"I need (the haters) to keep me motivated," Boozer said. "Little do they know, they just motivate. Guys like me take that in stride and use that as fuel."
Don't believe him? Well, Boozer did play his college ball at Duke, which is generally more disliked by basketball fans than any NBA team.
"I'm not one of those guys you can hate on and expect me to (whimper)," he added. "No, I'm not like that. I get motivated."
Of course, Boozer is one of three former Utah players on the Bulls' roster. Like Boozer, Kyle Korver jumped to the Bulls as a free agent last summer.
Ronnie Brewer is the third, but he actually was traded to Memphis last February before becoming a free agent.
"It's going to be an interesting game," Korver said. "We run half of Utah's sets now. There are going to be a lot of guys who know the plays inside and out.
"I think it's going to be fun. I think it's going to be a high-energy game."
The personal histories make this game unique, but the Bulls will be eager to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season. They struggled defensively in losses to Golden State and Portland.
Earlier in the day, Utah coach Jerry Sloan ho-hummed the return of Boozer and any sort of animosity there might be among Jazz fans. In three of his six seasons in Utah, Boozer missed at least 30 games with injuries.
"From my standpoint, you can't do anything about the injuries," Sloan said. "A lot of people had to comment on that, one way or the other. The only thing I can do as a coach is, if a guy's healthy I play him, and if he's not healthy, I don't play him. And he was a good guy to coach."
It was interesting to hear some memories the Bulls players took from their years in Utah.
Thanks to Sloan and the 1997-98 Finals, there already was a strong connection between these two franchises.
Korver suggested he might borrow a car Tuesday night and drive into the mountains just to take in the scenery.
"I had a cool spot downtown where I could see the mountains out the window every morning," he said. "And there was something to that. Having nature around just does something for your soul.
"An ocean around would probably be preferable … sunshine. But mountains would probably be second."
Brewer knew nothing about Salt Lake City when he was drafted in 2006, then formed a close bond with teammates Deron Williams, C.J. Miles and Paul Millsap.
"We played a lot of video games, watched a lot of movies," Brewer said. "There's a lot to do in Chicago and that's all nice and good. But at the end of the day you're there to play basketball.
"Night in and night out the fans are up there supporting you. I really respected that."