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Utah Jazz on road as Boozer plays at an All-Star level

SALT LAKE CITY — It's been a year since the Utah Jazz played that memorable game in New Jersey and since Carlos Boozer made that even more memorable statement.

Now the Jazz are back at the Meadowlands where they'll take on the two-win Nets tonight, almost exactly a year after rallying from 22 points down for a riveting road win.

Some things have certainly changed since that December night in 2008 when the then-injured Boozer proclaimed to an reporter: "I'm opting out. No matter what, I'm going to get a raise regardless."

To name one change, Boozer indeed got his raise and now makes $12.66 million in the sixth and final year of his Jazz contract.

He also changed his mind and didn't opt out, after all.

And after making oh-so-many headlines and being the topic of oh-so-many sports shows for what he said, the power forward is now generating publicity for what he's doing.

That, of course, is a welcome change.

Boozer quickly clarified his statement — even later apologized for it — and isn't interested in revisiting the past.

But he is not shy to talk about something he hopes is in his future, which has him in a better all-around position during this pre-Christmas road trip than the last one.

You wouldn't know it judging the fan All-Star voting — Boozer didn't even register among the top 11 forwards out West to be a starter in the first revealed results last week — but his play and sparkling stats are among the strongest in the NBA in his contract year.

"The free-agent-to-be forward," wrote TNT/ reporter David Aldridge this week, "is having an All-Star season in his walk year."

Tell the Jazz about it.

Not the walking part — the All-Star play part, that is.

"We all know that Carlos is capable of this," Jazz shooting guard Kyle Korver said. "He's playing really, really well. And when he's playing well, it sucks in the defense, it opens up stuff for everybody else."

And stuff opening up is much better than mouths opening up.

After a very rough start to the season, Boozer has bounced back to average 20.1 points on 54.9 percent shooting and 11.1 rebounds. The only other player in the NBA to average at least 20-10 in points and boards is Chris Bosh.

Boozer hopes those numbers continue to help the Jazz win and help earn him his third trip to the All-Star Game come February — a feat that will likely require help from the reserve-voting coaches.

"It's a huge goal for me," Boozer said of making the All-Star team. "It's something I look forward to every season — is kicking butt and getting back as part of the elite group of guys in the league."

Boozer — and other Jazz players — couldn't talk about his All-Star aspirations without putting in a plug in for the other Jazzman who's openly aiming to earn an invite to the midseason showcase in Dallas.

Already a star, Deron Williams, one of just two NBA players to average a 20-10 in scoring and assists, also wants the distinction of officially being an All-Star. That honor eluded him his first four seasons.

The fact they're the two most recent Western Conference players of the week certainly helps their case — even if the fans aren't exactly stuffing the ballot boxes for either of them.

"Hopefully that helps," Williams said when asked if NBA recognition this week might increase his All-Star chances.

"There's a couple of us on this team that have that same goal," Boozer added. "I think me and D-Will, primarily."

That, he believes, is a very good thing.

"When you've got guys that want to play at a high level every night to reach those goals," Boozer said, "it makes your team elevate. Because they (teammates) see me and D-Will busting our butt, everybody else busts their butt."

While raising his hand from one point to a higher level, Boozer added, "Next thing you know, our team goes from here to here. … Hopefully, I'll play well enough to make it and D-Will will as well."

Sounds great to the Jazz, who could use some All-Star play on this pre-Christmas road trip.

"I just hope that all of our players are on the All-Star team," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "That means we're a pretty good basketball team."

Ronnie Price believes it's important for the Jazz to win in order to pad the resumes of Boozer and Williams, whose chances seem higher than Utah's other two players on the All-Star ballot (Mehmet Okur and Paul Millsap).

"These guys as far as talent goes and as far as our team and our position right now, yeah, I think they're All-Stars," Price said. "The things that they do on the court speaks for itself."

Price recognized that when Williams and Boozer play well and lead the team, the Jazz often win. He only hopes others see that point, too.

"If it was up to us," Price said, "of course, they would be All-Stars. … They've got my vote any day, every day."

Add a vocal vote for both from Korver.

"Deron's been Deron. If he's not an All-Star this year, it's a travesty," he said. "When those guys are playing well, it just makes it easier on the rest of us."

It also puts the focus where Boozer would prefer — on what happens on the court and not what comes out of his mouth.

After all, Boozer would much rather do damage to opponents than have to do all the damage control required after the last time he visited New Jersey.