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Boozer is thriving as an NBA throwback

Posted: Thursday, February 12, 2004

Joe Tait noticed it a year ago.

Carlos Boozer walking down the Gund Arena hallway, holding hands with his wife and talking to anyone who wanted a moment.

"He's just a regular guy," the Cleveland Cavaliers veteran broadcaster said. "He doesn't expect people to bow down to him. He doesn't have an attitude."

Tait has been watching the NBA since 1970.

"Carlos is a throwback," he said. "I love to watch him play because he plays the game the right way. And I can't say that about a lot of guys right now. He's a good role model for your players."

Boozer, a 1999 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate, is the emerging star that few notice on the Cavaliers, where sometimes it seems it's All LeBron, All The Time.

That's not the fault of LeBron James, it's just a product of the overheated NBA hype machine. In fact, James has said he wants Boozer to be his power forward "until I retire."

But let's give Boozer his due, and it's long overdue.

Several people close to the power forward call him "old school."

He doesn't talk trash to opponents or cuss out officials. He is obsessed with rebounding. He has a solid medium-range jumper and shoots 77 percent from the foul line. He can make layups with both hands, which is as rare in the NBA as a two-handed, flat-footed set shot.

"He plays a lot like I did," said his coach, Paul Silas. "Only he has a better outside shot."

Boozer smiled when he heard those words.

"That means a lot to me coming from a guy who's 16th on the all-time rebounding list," he said.

Boozer actually knew that fact about his coach, which also tells you something - he realizes the NBA didn't begin with Michael Jordan.

Boozer is only 22 and this is his second season. He's averaging 15 points and 11 rebounds, shooting 52 percent.

"I think he could be the best power forward in the league," teammate Eric Williams said. "He rebounds. He defends. He has good inside moves and can score with either hand. He shoots well from the outside. He is just a great individual."

Boozer has said one of his role models is Karl Malone, another underrated, overachieving forward when he came out of college. Silas believes that one year, Boozer could lead the league in rebounding. He ranks fifth this season and at 6-foot-9, 260 pounds, he knows his main job and his identity as a player is tied to crashing the boards.

"It's a way to get the ball," he said simply.

Fundamentals?

While he didn't write the book on them, he obviously memorized it.

"But it was like they held all that against him," said Cavaliers broadcaster and former NBA coach Matt Goukas. "Everyone wants potential, and they missed a guy who was a very good player for a great program."

Boozer was the 35th pick in the 2002 draft, an unexplainable slight for a guy who averaged 18.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and shot 67 percent from the field.

Some held it against Boozer because so many other Duke stars had only so-so pro careers. Other said he was a back-to-the-basket center in college, and couldn't play forward in the NBA. Several high school players and foreign imports were picked in front of him, and few have made his impact.

"I heard some people say Carlos was too nice," Goukas said. "He's respectful and has manners, and they held that against him, too."

Which is ridiculous.

Boozer proves each game that a good person can be a good player, that treating people the right way means you can play the game the right way.

Don't think so? In his past 10 games, Boozer is averaging 22 points and 14 rebounds.

And he does it while being polite, too.



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