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Utah Jazz: Teammates have got Boozer’s back

SHARE Utah Jazz: Teammates have got Boozer’s back

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Deron Williams joked he was announcing he definitely planned to opt out in 2012.

And Matt Harpring kidded that Mehmet Okur, who this summer really can opt out of his current contract with the Jazz, already has signed a 10-year, $200 million deal to play in Turkey starting next season.

So it lightheartedly went Thursday for Jazz players, who learned only a short time earlier that on late Wednesday ESPN.com reported two-time All-Star power forward Carlos Boozer had — in all seriousness — declared he definitely planned to opt out of the final year of his own six-season, $68 million contract in Utah.

(Boozer backed off those comments a bit on Thursday, suggesting he was only casually explaining why it would make sense for him to do so — and that he had not at all ruled out re-signing with the Jazz).

"It's not a big deal," point guard Deron Williams said prior to practice at nearby Oakland University. "Pretty much everybody on the team ... knew he was gonna opt out. So that's not a surprise to us."

"Me being around a while, I've seen a lot of things in this league," veteran forward Matt Harpring said. "And this is very minor compared to some of the things I've seen. So I think things are going to be just fine."

Some in the organization, however, weren't nearly so forgiving.

"Top 10 stupidest things I've ever heard an NBA player do in 24 years," Jazz owner Larry H. Miller said Thursday on KFAN-AM 1320.

"Carlos knows better," Miller added. "He told (Jazz general manager) Kevin (O'Connor) he screwed up. But that doesn't fix it. So what do the fans think now? You know? And that's all I'm going to say about it."

O'Connor on Thursday did not return a call seeking comment beyond those which he made late Wednesday night — including the assertion neither Boozer nor any of his representatives had informed him of such plans.

But Jazz coach Jerry Sloan did address the messy matter.

"If it were my son," said Sloan, who at the time hadn't personally spoken with Boozer, "I'd talk to him a little bit more."

Yet Sloan, and others, defended Boozer's right to say what he did — even though Boozer was the one who was backpedaling Thursday.

"I can't control that," the Jazz coach said. "If he came and asked me and talked to me about it, I would give him what I think is common-sense advice. But players have to be who they are. I can't legislate who they are and what they're about."

"It's the NBA. You've got grown men, so they're free to speak their mind," Harpring said. "Obviously it happens all the time. And Boozer obviously felt like he needed to speak his mind at that time. You never know what his reasons are, but obviously he had his reasons for doing so."

What did seem to baffle some, though, was Boozer's less-than-opportune timing.

That is especially the case because, prior to and throughout training camp, he insisted he would not talk contract during the season — and he even suggested others should follow his lead.

"You know," Williams said, "it was a little odd that he would just suddenly drop it in.

"But it's the way he feels," he added. "Grown man. He can say what wants."

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com