Bottling Boozer

Since the NBA’s then-team in New Orleans moved to Salt Lake City in 1979, the Utah Jazz has been the most oxymoronic team in American sports, surpassing even the Seattle Sunlight, the Omaha Mountaineers, and the Los Angeles Decent Human Beings. The identity crisis intensified after John Stockton went the way of the short-shorts and Karl Malone retired to shoot animals rather than free throw. But in the past two years, Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer have been good enough to draw comparisons to their predecessors. The differences are that Williams doesn’t flop as though he’s been hit by a sniper’s bullet when someone hand-checks him (a Stockton standby), and Boozer has developed an arcing jump shot that he deploys instead of driving at the hoop with his front knee extended like a battering ram (Malone’s trademark).

The Miami Heat, meanwhile, has settled firmly on an identity: the team that pisses away the first six weeks of the season and has to spend the remainder of the year working waaaay too hard just to make the playoffs. According to Shaq, all the team needs to do is figure out a way to get him the damn ball; but he also better be able to put a hand in Boozer’s face at the American Airlines Arena today at 7:30 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 22, 7:30 p.m., 2007

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