As the free agency class dwindles down to just about nothing, Carlos Boozer is waiting for a phone call. The optics are against him. His best days are long behind him both on offense and defense. At best, he is a backup power forward that can log about twenty minutes, score about 14 points and hit an array of mid-range jumpers in a row. At worst, he can’t defend anyone in the paint anymore, his shot clanks off the rim and he struggles up and down the court. Already China has come calling but Boozer wants to be on a NBA roster.
Carlos Boozer was a second round pick in 2002 and has exceeded expectations laid out on draft night when the Duke forward was chosen early in the second round because of his lack of athleticism. Scouts unilaterally predicated he would get his shot routinely blocked on the professional level.
Drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers and a teammate of LeBron James for a hot second, Boozer’s best days were with the Utah Jazz and Deron Williams. Both players lost a lot of their luster and confidence once they left the confines of Jerry Sloan. Boozer went to Chicago and never fulfilled his promise and the money he took made it worse as fans never let him forget his shortcomings and inadequacies and bank account.
Last year with the Lakers, Boozer had a decent year (11.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 23.8 minutes) but nothing to write home about and frankly he was on a miserable team with a dictatorial coach and a clueless owner. He had moments to shine and moments to stink up the place like most everyone else on the team. It did nothing to endure his value to other teams, say like Chris Kaman did when he played for the Lakers. But Kaman is a seven footer and Boozer is a small 6-9.
There is something about Boozer that is sort of sad, like a kid invited to a birthday party at three o’clock when the party is at noon. By the time he gets to the party, everyone is gone. That’s the Boozer reality in the NBA. He’s not explosive enough to do much in the paint if his mid-range isn’t falling. He routinely gets out worked and even if he didn’t, he can’t out jump today’s power forwards for rebounds. He is slow and plodding and it’s not his fault that in the middle of his career the rules changed and he just could not be a stretch four or a ball handler or a hybrid guard/forward.
The question is: has Boozer fallen so far that he is not even a 13th man on a roster? He’s never been a player who did special things at the rim. He doesn’t have length. He’s not crafty. But is he the joke, what drunk and snarky fans serenade him with late in games: Boozer, loser, Boozer loser?
The worst thing that happened to Carlos Boozer was being paid like a star when he was starting to slow down. He had a good run for a few years but never played big in the playoffs. Thirteen years in the NBA have led him here, unemployed and hoping a NBA team thinks he can offer something. Boozer is a good teammate and a lot of young teams bound for the lottery can use him in the locker room. But, Boozer is a familiar story, albeit a cliche, the good player who was never great and therefore could never be in control of his own destiny and needs a little bit of empathy at the end.
Time runs out quicker for the Boozer’s of the world than it does for the superstars; the NBA is not a meritocracy. It’s often unfair. Blame the world for not operating on luck. You don’t get to choose the ending, the league chooses it for you. The league draws the line in the sand. The league keeps you out, says your time is over, forces you to play overseas as your final goodbye to a world that has gone on without you.
photo via llananba