Carlos Boozer is now officially in the NBA.
Boozer, a former Juneau-Douglas High School and Duke University basketball star, signed a two-year contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers today at Cleveland's Gund Arena. The Cavaliers picked Boozer in the second round of the NBA Draft on June 26, with the 35th overall selection.
"I'm very excited to be a Cavalier," Boozer said in a very brief phone interview today while he and his fiancée Cynthia "CeCe" Blackwell were on a house-hunting trip with one of the Cavaliers' staff members. Boozer and Blackwell will be married this weekend in North Carolina.
The Cavaliers have a team policy of not releasing contract details, but Boozer said the contract was for two years guaranteed.
Few second-round picks earn guaranteed contracts, but Boozer's strong performance in the Rocky Mountain Revue last month helped him earn the rare deal. Despite missing the first two games in the six-game series with an Achilles tendon injury, Boozer made the All-Revue Team as the leading rebounder at 10.3 boards a game and third-ranked scorer with 17.5 points per game. Boozer tied for fifth in steals (1.75) and had 1.0 blocks a game.
"We are very happy that Carlos has signed his contract with the Cavs," Cleveland senior vice president and general manager Jim Paxson said in a press release. "We were very pleased with how Carlos performed on our summer league team and we feel that he will be a contributor to our team this season."
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While financial figures were not disclosed, most second-round picks earn the minimum salary stated by the NBA's collective bargaining agreement. The NBA minimum for a first-year player is $349,458, while the second-year minimum salary is $563,674.
As a 6-foot-9, 280-pound junior center at Duke last season, Boozer earned third-team All-America honors from the Associated Press and was the MVP of the ACC Tournament. Boozer ranked fourth in the ACC in scoring with 18.2 points a game and was third in the ACC in rebounding at 8.7. Boozer finished his three-year college career as Duke's best field-goal percentage shooter in school history at 63.1 percent. He helped the Blue Devils win the 2001 NCAA Championship.
Boozer is the second Alaskan to sign an NBA contract, following in the footsteps of former East Anchorage High School and Duke guard Trajan Langdon. Currently a free agent looking for a team, Langdon was a first-round pick by the Cavaliers in 1999 and played three years with the Cavs. Langdon's contract was not renewed by the Cavs this summer.
Before the draft, Boozer was projected as a first-round pick by many news services and basketball draft gurus. Boozer said he was disappointed when his draft stock slipped and vowed to show he was worthy of a first-round selection.
He used the disappointment as motivation, and that played a big part in Boozer's Rocky Mountain Revue performance.
"I tried to dominate as much as I could and I think I dominated," Boozer told the Cleveland Plain Dealer last week. "I played extremely well, but I could've done a little more. I'm not 100 percent yet because of my Achilles. I wanted to let Cleveland know that they have a good player who wants to be a great player."
Boozer is projected to be a power forward in the NBA and he's dropped his weight to 255-260 in order to gain more mobility and explosiveness. Boozer had a few rough moments with the transition in his first game, but by the end of the Rocky Mountain Revue he seemed more comfortable in the new role. He scored 20 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in Cleveland's final game, a 90-65 loss to the Utah Jazz.
"He came into camp in good shape," Cleveland assistant coach Keith Smart told the Plain Dealer. "He lost a lot of weight and showed people things they haven't seen, like an outside shot and the ability to rebound the ball and bring it up court during transition. I never saw him do that on tape. Carlos also did things that we knew he could do, like rebound and be a good communicator on the court."
Some of the other NBA teams also noticed Boozer's improved play.
"Carlos is showing more offensive ability on the perimeter and he's putting the ball on the floor," Denver Nuggets assistant general manager David Freedman told the Plain Dealer. "His body fat is down; he's much quicker and he has improved his long-range shooting ability. The bigger test for him will be against bigger NBA vets. He worked out pretty good for us during his individual workout. Before we traded our 25th selection, we considered him."
Training camp for the Cavaliers opens on Oct. 1 in Cleveland, and that's when Boozer will find out where he fits into a Cavs roster that's undergone significant changes this summer. The Cavs open their NBA season on Oct. 29 in Sacramento, Calif., when Cleveland makes the first of its two West Coast road trips of the schedule. The other West Coast road trip is in mid-January.
"All the feedback the Cavs gave me was positive," Boozer told the Plain Dealer. "I was told I have the opportunity to get into the rotation."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.