Cleveland doesn't rock; it's been rocked.

How the Cavaliers let Carlos Boozer bolt toward Utah is the talk of the town, so much so many there are singing the Boozer Bungle Blues.

"Imminent departure of Boozer will set the Cavs back years," blared the headline in the Willoughby News-Herald of Northeast Ohio.

After the second-season Cavs power forward reneged Thursday on his supposed non-binding oral promise to re-sign with Cleveland for about $40 million over six years and instead agreed to a deal worth $68 million over the same number of seasons, some Cleveland area media members painted Boozer as a portrait of deceit.

"Cavs' trust goes bust with Boozer," one Cleveland Plain Dealer headline read.

"This is a tough one for Cavaliers fans to understand," the Akron Beacon Journal's Terry Pluto wrote. "Most of them love Carlos Boozer, the Duke Blue Devil turned blue-collar, hard-working power forward who said and did all the right things in his first two years with the team. Until now."

"Greed," the News-Herald's Bob Finnan wrote, "apparently took over in the proceedings."

Others put the blame squarely on the shoulders of Cavaliers general manager Jim Paxson, the man who evidently took Boozer and agent Rob Pelinka at their word when they vowed to sign a mid-level money deal with Cleveland if the Cavaliers would just make next season's paltry $695,000 salary go away.

Paxson did just that on June 30, voiding the option year on Boozer's contract and making him a restricted free agent. The catch is that the Cavs can only match up to about $40 million unless they rid themselves of several contracts, making the Jazz's offer one that would seem to have Boozer soon headed for Utah.

"Paxson should pay with his job," read the headline over Mark Koestner's News-Herald column.

"How big is this screw-up on Paxson's unending list of mistakes?" a Medina Gazette columnist wondered. "Let's put it this way, it easily supplants his trade of Andre Miller for Darius Miles atop the charts."

Nationally, at least one outlet wondered if the Jazz should share some blame for the debacle.

"What do you think of Utah's action?" was one question on a short ESPN.com poll.

The two choices: Either "They are just trying to win" or "They should have honored the Cavaliers' oral agreement."

With nearly 100,00 responses as of Friday afternoon, only about 10 percent thought the Jazz were out of line.

Plain Dealer columnist Bud Shaw laid out both sides.

"The Cavs would not be exaggerating to say that if he signs, he has sold his word. But from his standpoint the Jazz met a pretty hefty asking price for his honor," Shaw wrote. "Nobody in Utah will think of him as a fraud while the Cavs will look like chumps everywhere they go if they lose him.

"Unless Boozer does another 180-degree turn," Shaw added, "we are reminded of the words of those noted philosophers, the boys from 'Animal House,' who promised no damage to Flounder's brother's car, then trashed it."

Paraphrased, they are this: You goofed up; you trusted us.

Cav players were hit especially hard.

"I'm shocked. . . . I don't know what to say," Jeff McInnis told the Plain Dealer. "I'm disappointed because I loved playing with Boozer, but now we have to move on."

"LeBron is devastated about this; he was looking forward to playing with Carlos for years," Aaron Goodwin, the agent for Cavs star LeBron James, told the Beacon Journal. "LeBron believed it was Carlos' and the Cavaliers' intention to strengthen their team but instead it has backfired because people went back on their word. It is very unfortunate."

There did, however, seem to be consensus agreement on this assertion: The Jazz are on the verge of getting one awfully good power forward.

"Boozer is a Sloan-type of player," Clifford Ray, an ex-Cavs assistant coach now working with Orlando, told the Plain Dealer. "Boozer is a hard-nosed rebounding machine, and that's all of the stuff Jerry Sloan wants.

"Boozer is the ultimate power forward right now," Ray added. "He's the next Karl Malone. Boozer has not even scratched the surface of his talent."


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com