Cavaliers risk losing Boozer

Cavs don't pick up JDHS grad's option so they can negotiate a longterm deal

Posted: Friday, July 02, 2004

Boozer's contract option for next season wasn't picked up by the Cleveland Cavaliers before Wednesday's deadline, a surprising decision by the club, which immediately makes the third-year power forward and 1999 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate a restricted free agent.

Boozer, though, isn't interested in playing for any other team than the Cavaliers, who intend to sign him to a long-term deal sometime this summer.

"I want to be in Cleveland," Boozer said Thursday. "I like it here. My wife and I are very, very happy here, and I want to be with the Cavaliers. Good things are happening. Now it's up to my agent and the Cavs to work things out.

"I hope they will."

Agent Rob Pelinka has already begun contract talks with Cavs general manager Jim Paxson.

"Carlos and his wife, CeCe, made it clear to me that they are very comfortable with the Cavaliers' organization, owner Gordon Gund and the direction the team is going," Pelinka said. "I'm confident that Jim and I will continue to have conversations and we'll be able to work something out."

The 6-foot-9 Boozer emerged as one of the NBA's rising stars with a breakout 2003-04 season. He averaged 15.5 points and 11.4 rebounds, and along with Rookie of the Year LeBron James, helped Cleveland improve its win total from 17 to 35 in one season.

Boozer was runner-up as the league's most improved player and was extended an invitation to play for the U.S. Olympic team in Athens next month.

Several media outlets reported on Thursday that the Cavs had exercised Boozer's option. However, the opposite occurred as the club decided not to pick up the final year of his deal - a bargain at roughly $700,000.

By not exercising the option, the Cavaliers are taking a calculated risk. Another team could swoop in and offer Boozer a gigantic deal, which the Cavaliers would be able to match.

But the club doesn't plan to let things get to that point. Once the NBA's moratorium period ends July 13, the Cavs will be able to offer Boozer a long-term contract.

"Yesterday, the Cavaliers elected not to exercise our team option for Carlos Boozer's third season," Paxson said in a statement. "As a result, we now are able, and fully intend, to enter into a long-term contract with Carlos.

"... Carlos Boozer is a valuable, core part of the foundation of this team moving forward and our desire is for him to be a Cavalier for the long-term."

Under the league's collective bargaining agreement, the Cavaliers can only give the former Duke star a deal starting at the mid-level exception, which will be about $5 million a season. The contract can be for a maximum of six years.

If the Cavs had picked up Boozer's option, he would have been an unrestricted free agent after next season.

The Akron Beacon Journal reported that last year the Golden State Warriors took a similar risk with Gilbert Arenas, whose contract situation was similar to Boozer's. But Arenas decided to sign a six-year, $64 million deal with the Washington Wizards that the Warriors couldn't match.

Boozer said he doesn't plan to change teams, even though the Cavaliers took a big risk by making him a free agent..

"I am an honorable person; we have a great foundation here," Boozer told the Beacon Journal. "I am fine with sharing the spotlight with LeBron. Everything is going in the right direction for me. I think there is a possibility to get something done this summer."

Boozer feels a loyalty to the Cavaliers, who drafted him in the second round (No. 35 overall) in the 2002 draft. They see him - along with James - as cornerstones of their future.

"I'm thankful for everything the Cavs have done for me," Boozer said. "A lot of teams didn't think I was worth it and let me slide into the second round. But they were the ones who gave me a chance and let me play as a rookie.

"That doesn't happen much in this league - unless you're LeBron."



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