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Boozer's back, but Jazz tumble

Jazz players Andrei Kirilenko and Ronnie Brewer pressure Phoenix's Steve Nash Monday night.
Jazz players Andrei Kirilenko and Ronnie Brewer pressure Phoenix's Steve Nash Monday night.
Ross D. Franklin, Associated Press

PHOENIX — Seeing how it's preseason and all, the numbers that really mattered for the Jazz on Monday night here weren't so much the 35-point deficit in the third quarter or even the 23-point final margin.

Rather, come start of the 2007-08 NBA regular season, it was the five rebounds pulled, 10 points produced and 13 minutes played by power forward Carlos Boozer that Utah should remember most from a 124-101 exhibition loss to the Phoenix Suns at sold-out USA Airways Center.

Boozer, the Jazz's leading scorer and rebounder last season, was making his first appearance of the preseason. He clearly was not in mid-season shape, but afterward deemed the outing to be better than decent.

"Other than us getting our butts whipped, it felt good to be out there," he said. "Good to be back out there with the fellas."

Based on his performance Monday, Boozer suggested he'll have no trouble being good to go all-out for the Oct. 30 opening of the regular season.

"Before that, absolutely," he said. "They way I work, and the way we work, I'll be fine. I'm not worried about that."

The 2007 NBA All-Star, 2004 Olympian and current Team USA member missed all of training camp in Boise earlier this month while tending to his ill son back home back in Miami.

But with 1-year-old Carmani finally discharged following a lengthy hospital stay related to his ongoing battle with sickle cell anemia, a potentially deadly blood disorder, Boozer was able to re-join the team on the road last Friday in Detroit.

He did not dress Friday night against the Pistons, and did not play Saturday night in Milwaukee either.

Originally, plans called for Boozer to sit out Monday night in Phoenix as well. Later, after he worked out with teammates Sunday in Phoenix, that was changed to he "most likely" would not play against the Suns.

Finally, though, both Boozer and the Jazz decided enough was enough.

By Monday day, word was that the 25-year-old may play very limited minutes in the now 2-2 Jazz's fourth game of the preseason.

As it turned out, he did much more that.

"We need everybody we can to get out there and try to be ready for the season. He knows he's got a lot of work to go, but he's worked real hard," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, whose club continues preseason play Wednesday night at EnergySolutions Arena vs. Philadelphia. "That's why I decided to play him — because I saw him practice (Sunday), and I thought he had a good practice."

Boozer started in his usual 4 spot, and went six straight minutes in the opening quarter before taking a seat. He only had one basket at that point, an early bucket scored with the rebound of a missed Mehmet Okur jumper.

Boozer wound up going another seven minutes and 14 seconds at the start of the third quarter, a period in which he made 4-of-5 shots to finish 5-for-7 from the field.

In the third alone, he knocked down jumpers from 16 and 17 feet and converted two layups, the latter a nifty reverse layup fed by Andrei Kirilenko.

By the time he exited for the night with 4:46 to go in the period, Phoenix already was up by 29, 87-58.

Not that that ultimately matter to a team which anxiously has been awaiting the arrival of its 20.9-point scorer from a season ago, wondering the whole while just what sort of condition he would be in after focusing on such heavy-duty family matters.

Now they know.

"He's got a ways to go to get in shape," Sloan said. "That's the biggest thing."

Teammates were much more forgiving, and hopeful.

"He needs some time ... to get back in game rhythm," Kirilenko said. "Three four days, he'll be back."

"He did a good job," Okur added. "I don't think he's 100 percent now ... but he looked good out there."