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Boozer's glad to be back with Jazz

All-Star returns to team after tending to ailing young son

Carlos Boozer
Carlos Boozer

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — It hurt Carlos Boozer to be away so long.

But nothing, the Jazz power forward suggested after catching up with the club Friday, could trump the pain of watching his young son Carmani endure a bout with sickle cell anemia.

"I mean, I couldn't even think about basketball at the time of going through what my son was going through," Boozer said before the Jazz's 100-85 preseason win over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night here. "I thank God to have the support of my organization, and, I'll tell you, it's good to be back and get this thing going."

While the defending Northwest Division-champion Jazz opened training camp last week in Boise and began preseason play earlier this week, Boozer was at home in Miami helping care for his ailing 1-year-old.

The boy has undergone both chemotherapy and, in August, a bone marrow transplant to battle the incurable but treatable disease, an inherited and potentially fatal blood disorder.

The ongoing saga kept Boozer, a 2004 Olympian and a current member of Team USA's senior national program, from playing for the United States in their FIBA Tournament of the Americas Olympic qualifier this past summer.

He decided to rejoin the Jazz now only because Carmani was just recently discharged, with a favorable prognosis, from a Miami-area hospital.

"He went through a lot, but he's back home now," Boozer said. "He's doing OK. He's getting better day by day. But the good thing is he's home, and that's why I'm here. If he was at the hospital, I wouldn't be here.

"He's not out of the woods yet, but he's doing well," added Boozer, the Jazz's leading scorer and rebounder last season. "Each day, hopefully, is a better day."

The Jazz know Boozer will be a bit behind — "From a mental point of view," general manager Kevin O'Connor said Friday, "he's got to get back into it" — but were more than willing to give their 2007 NBA All-Star all the time he needed in Miami.

"It's so hard not to be with your team, especially as much as I love my teammates and I love what we do here in Utah," said Boozer, who helped lead the Jazz into last season's Western Conference finals. "You know, we're on the brink of doing something special if we can replicate what we did last year, but be better at it.

"It was tough not being at the camp," he added, "but at the same time I had my teammates and my owner (Larry H. Miller) and my GM (O'Connor) and my team, my entire Utah Jazz staff, supportive of where I had to be."

That support was felt firsthand Friday night, when Boozer joined the team for its pre-game warmup session.

"He had a situation that was definitely more important than anything we're doing right here on the court," point guard Deron Williams said. "He had to take care of that."

"I know it had to be mixed emotions for him today leaving his home and his family and everything," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan added, "but that's part of the job. He realizes that, I think, and we're happy to have him back."

Boozer, who did not play Friday night, said he hopes to play in at least a couple of the Jazz's eight exhibition games. He also suggested he's certain he will be ready to go for their Oct. 30 regular-season opener at Golden State.

"I don't think it will be too long. ... I just don't know what game yet," he said.

Those around him don't seem too concerned.

"The first thing you look at is weight — and his weight looks good," O'Connor said.

"It's not like he doesn't know the plays, or anything like that," Williams added. "He might be a step off — but I was a step off until the second half tonight."

As for Boozer's schedule throughout the season, and the possibility of having to make multiple trips to Miami over the next few months, much is uncertain.

"I don't know who has an answer to that," O'Connor said. "I don't know if he does either."

Boozer — who thanked Jazz fans for "keeping me in your prayers, and keeping my family in your prayers" — indicated he wasn't at all sure of future plans.

Son Carmani's health will be the determining factor.

"I think the outlook looks pretty good right now," Boozer said. "We're just gonna keep praying for it."