CLEVELAND - Carlos Boozer's public cross-examination will have to wait.
Many Cavaliers fans have been anticipating tonight's home game with the Utah Jazz since it was announced last summer, but Boozer will not be in the building. The Jazz report that he will remain in Salt Lake City, awaiting the results on tests to his injured right foot.
The arena might be the site of a public catharsis, anyway.
Many fans likely still will bring signs with messages to Boozer, who bolted the Cavaliers to sign a six-year, $68 million deal with the Jazz last July. The Cavaliers, who weren't afraid of NBA fines when Ricky Davis made his return after his controversial exit last season, are believed to be going ahead with a battery of odes to Boozer.
"It's good he's not here, all they're going to do is boo him," said Cavaliers center DeSagana Diop, who is friends with Boozer. "It will be worse than when Ricky came back, (after) what he did to the fans and the city."
Last season, the Cavaliers were hit with a $5,000 fine when the team mascot used an old Davis jersey to mop the floor during a timeout in his first return as a member of the Celtics. It was not an isolated instance of team-sponsored bashing. The Jazz were slapped with a $15,000 fine when they performed a skit mocking Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant when the Lakers made their first visit to the Delta Center after Malone's high-profile exit last season.
There was a little hint of the mood could be Sunday night.
At the conclusion of the 98-86 victory over the Indiana Pacers, even as celebratory confetti fell from the ceiling, the crowd loudly booed when the announcer at Gund Arena reminded them the next home game was against "Carlos Boozer and the Utah Jazz."
"I talked to him on the phone last night, he heard the fans do that because he was watching the game," Diop said after speaking with Boozer. "He was just laughing. I don't think he understands. ... I tried to tell him, but he was laughing."
Boozer has missed the past 11 games with a sprained right foot that has puzzled the Jazz medical staff. They've requested old X-rays from Boozer's time at Duke for comparison, and he has been to a tissue specialist in Los Angeles. But until this road trip, he'd made every road game since the injury.
"It's up to him. Sooner or later, he's going to have to face (the fans)," Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas said. "For us, it's another day in the NBA."
Instead, it will be his Jazz teammates who will bear the load tonight. They've dealt with its distractions since the beginning of the season.
"I can't answer for him. He's got to take care of what's going on with his foot and can't worry about sideshows," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said before his team's practice Monday at Gund Arena. "I don't know where he could benefit from being here."
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