Carlos Boozer set for Utah return
SALT LAKE CITY -- When it comes to the reception he's going to hear during Wednesday night's game at Utah, Bulls forward Carlos Boozer has a simple philosophy he plans to stick to.
"It's all Booooz to me," he said after Tuesday afternoon's practice. "I'm looking forward to it, it's going to be a fun night."
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If the line of questioning towards Boozer by the local media is any indication, he can certainly expect to hear regular boos as well. After spending six seasons playing with the Jazz, the veteran forward signed with the Bulls in the offseason and it's obvious that some Utah fans still hold some hostility towards him for several different reasons including, among other things, his inability to stay on the floor during his tenure because of injuries. Despite the tension his arrival back in Utah may cause, Boozer welcomes any critics that may shout things in his direction on Wednesday night.
"You need them to keep you motivated," he said. "Little do they know, haters motivate. Guys like me take that in stride and use that as fuel ... it fuels you. I'm not one of those guys you can hate on and expect me [to be like] "Oh, you're hating on me ..." No, I'm not like that. I get motivated."
Boozer is one of three former Jazz players on the Bulls roster, including Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer. He admitted that the trio is still having a hard time adjusting to the fact that they will be suiting up against their former team.
"It's already been kind of strange," he said. "Me and Kyle and Ronnie have already been talking about it. Flying in last night, we got in at like 2:30-3 in the morning, went to the hotel instead of going to our houses. Coming here in another uniform, it already feels kind of weird actually but I'm sure [Wednesday] night will be weird."
Both Korver and Brewer weren't sure what to expect as far as Boozer's reception would be, but neither would be surprised if their teammate hears it from the fans.
"It should be good," Korver said. "Carlos had some great years here. He helped the team win a lot of games. When he first came here the team wasn't looking very good, so I hope people remember that and not little comments in the newspaper."
"Hopefully, it's a good one," Brewer added of Boozer's reception. "Because he did a lot for the organization. But I feel like if he gets booed, he's going to feel like he's saying Booz anyway. I think he's going to take it positively and I think he's going to have a good showing."
Brewer tried to put the feelings Utah fans may have towards Boozer in perspective.
"It's just how he's viewed in other people's eyes," Brewer said. "I think in that locker room, people knew what type of guy he was on the court and off the court. And what he meant for this organization. And when things were going down and comments he made, nobody took it personal, the coaches didn't take it personal, because we knew what type of player and what type of guy he was. He's a stand-up guy and he meant a lot and he's a good friend of mine so I think some of the [criticism from fans] was warranted and maybe the words were twisted a little bit and other times people make mistakes. I knew what type of guy he was. He's a good guy to have on the team."
The young swingman believes that the type of criticism that Boozer dealt with in Utah just comes with the territory of being a star player in the NBA.
"Only one team can win every year," Brewer said. "So every other team, somebody's got to be held accountable for it. And the majority of time it's your superstar or the guy who's making the most money, guys who are having the best numbers. If he's averaging 20 and 10 throughout the season and he averages 16 and 8, he's going to feel like he was a letdown in the playoffs. He's still having great numbers and he's still carrying the team, but that's why they're superstar players, because they can warrant that criticism and play through it."
For his part, Boozer doesn't seem to be bothered by whatever kind of reception comes his way, noting that he is prepared for the worst after going through a similar situation when returning to Cleveland after spurning the Cavs in free agency earlier in his career.
"I'm not worried about that at all," he said of how the fans' reaction. "I had a great time when I was here. Great memories, the fans were great to me. We had some great teams. We tried to compete for a title, we fell short, but I had some great memories here."
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com.