CLEVELAND -- It's been nearly three years since Carlos Boozer spurned the Cavaliers to make more money in Utah.
Surely, fans have forgotten by now.
Or maybe not.
Fan Gerry Elliot said he hates Boozer.
"He threw the Cavs under the bus," the 45-year-old said.
Boozer hasn't returned to Cleveland since he left in the summer
of 2004. Injuries kept him from playing the Cavaliers when the Jazz
visited the last two seasons.
But he's expected to make his long-awaited return Saturday
night. Everyone in town knows the reception won't be warm.
Boozer is viewed as another turncoat by Cleveland fans, who have
been jilted over the years by former Browns owner Art Modell and
former Indians Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome.
A sports talk radio station was getting fans primed for Boozer's
return with a contest Friday to see who could come up with the best
jeer. Another element that could make for a raucous atmosphere
Saturday night is that it's St. Patrick's Day.
"Terrible," Cavaliers star LeBron James said. "It's going to
be pretty bad for him tomorrow."
Boozer was a young, upcoming star in Cleveland when he sat down
with former owner Gordon Gund to negotiate a new deal after his
A second-round draft pick out of Duke, Boozer was due to make
$695,000 in the option year of his contract.
The Cavaliers declined to exercise the option -- making him a
restricted free agent -- in the belief he would accept a six-year
deal worth about $38.6 million to remain in Cleveland.
Boozer signed a six-year, $68 million offer sheet from the Utah Jazz. The Cavaliers refused to match the 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. That's what
happened," Gund said then.
Boozer 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
Guess whose side Cavs fans took?
"It's a lack of personal integrity," fan Craig Hardy said.
"The Cavs management played it wrong, but the critical event was
[Boozer] went back on his word."
Elliot, whose son hasn't worn his Boozer jersey since he left
town, said if Boozer wasn't so talented, fans probably wouldn't
have been as upset.
After struggling with injuries for two years in Utah, Boozer has
put together his finest season. He was named an All-Star for the
first time and is among the league leaders in points (21.0), field
goal percentage (.564) and rebounds (11.6) for the Jazz, who
entered Friday night with the fourth best record in the NBA.
Boozer's former Cavs teammates don't hold any animosity toward
him. Besides James, only center Zydrunas Ilgauskas and forward Ira
Newble remain from the 2003-04 team.
"Honestly, I don't really care," Ilgauskas said. "It's been
so long ago. I'm sure some people will boo him."
James was diplomatic on whether the player known as "Booze"
deserves the boos he's going to hear in Cleveland.
"He had to do what was best for him and his family and he chose
to do that,'"James said. "But the fans don't understand it that
way. ... Whatever they do, I'm behind them."