As the Utah Jazz remain on a hot streak, fan chatter remains stuck on the future of Carlos Boozer in Utah. The team is thriving in Boozer's latest injury absence, many observe; we've seen the future with Paul Millsap as a starting forward, and it continues to look pretty bright. Yet there remains a surprising level of ambivalence, as Boozer has posted big offensive and rebounding numbers when healthy. Will he be traded before the deadline in a season now showing the potential for playoff success? Will he remain part of the Jazz's future?
Before you think about how you'd want that question answered by Jazz management, I'd offer this simple statement: The Jazz will never be winners with Carlos Boozer. And Carlos Boozer will never be a winner.
This simple reality didn't come into focus until I completed ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons' terrific, definitive NBA Bible The Book of Basketball. It's not the kind of book that will endear itself to many Jazz fans, since Simmons routinely eviscerates Karl Malone's playoff crunch-time failures; Simmons has also made a point of lauding Chris Paul (whom the Jazz passed up to draft Deron Williams) over Williams. If you're not ready to listen to anything the guy says, so be it.
But Simmons focuses on a very simple revelation in The Book of Basketball, one he calls "The Secret" of basketball: It's not about basketball. Winning teams are the ones that realize you need to decide to be a team. They sacrifice individual statistics and goals. They surround superstars with role-players who know their roles and play them with enthusiasm. They are ferociously, single-mindedly dedicated to only one goal, and that's a championship. Not a paycheck. Not more playing time. A championship.
From literally the moment Carlos Boozer joined the Utah Jazz, it should have been clear that he was not wired that way. In case you've forgotten, Boozer notoriously lied and cheated his way out of Cleveland in order to get his big Utah payday. Boozer denies the allegations, but it has been impossible to take his protestations seriously for two reasons: 1) Even a sports executive in Cleveland isn't stupid enough to let a productive player go when they could have had him on the cheap for another year, unless there was some kind of understanding in place; 2) Boozer's agent, Rob Pelinka, famously refused to accept the $2.7 million commission from this Utah deal, because he felt uncomfortable with the circumstances. If a pro sports agent is taking the moral high ground, you've clearly done something really horrible.
Last year's infamous "I'm going to get a raise regardless" comment by Boozer rubbed Utah fans -- and then-owner Larry Miller -- the wrong way, but really, why was anyone surprised? Carlos Boozer thinks of Carlos Boozer. He will always be looking out for himself. And a team built around that guy has zero chance of winning a championship. You know what good trade value for Boozer is right now? Anything that gets him the hell out of town, and allows his selfishness to poison another franchise.