Jazz leader hopes injury heals quickly enough to let him play
By Tim Buckley
Deseret Morning News
TNT's studio crew began debating his replacement possibilities within seconds after Jazz power forward Carlos Boozer was named as an NBA All-Star for the first time in his five-season career.
Not so fast, Chuck. Hold your horses, Magic.
Boozer on Thursday night reiterated what he first suggested Wednesday — that despite a hairline fracture on the fibula bone head leading into his left knee, he still hasn't ruled out taking part in the Feb. 18 All-Star Game at Las Vegas.
"I'm hoping to (play)," the Jazz's leading scorer and rebounder said while icing the knee. "Obviously I won't know until we get much, much closer."
Boozer was hurt last Saturday in Oklahoma City, and on Wednesday the Jazz issued a statement saying "injuries of this nature typically take four to five weeks to fully heal."
"That's the typical, like a normal person," Boozer said.
"But," he added, "I also had both doctors (Lyle Mason, a Jazz team physician, and Richard Ferkel, Boozer's personal orthopedic surgeon) tell me they also have had clients back in two to three weeks."
Boozer also said "common sense tells me that if you come back too soon you can re-fracture it," but, "it's a rapidly healing type of injury."
Such information, however, apparently wasn't passed along to cable-network TNT, which made formal announcement of both Western Conference and Eastern Conference reserves Thursday.
"That's a shame he broke his leg," studio analyst Charles Barkley said when Boozer was called among the West reserves as chosen by a vote of conference coaches, joined by Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki, Denver's Allen Iverson, San Antonio's Tony Parker and Phoenix teammates Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion.
"At least," fellow analyst Magic Johnson added, "he could know he made it."
Conversation on the set soon turned to Western Conference omissions and potential injury replacements for both Boozer and Houston Rockets center Yao Ming, who was named a starter in fan balloting along with San Antonio's Tim Duncan, Minnesota's Kevin Garnett, Houston's Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Among those snubbed: Denver's Carmelo Anthony, the NBA scoring leader whose 15-game suspension for his involvement in a fight during a December game at New York may have prompted some Western coaches to leave him off their ballots.
"If it's based on play," Johnson said, "Carmelo and (Dallas') Josh Howard should be in."
Studio host Ernie Johnson addressed implications, if that's indeed the case, for the Jazz — current owners of the NBA's fifth-best record at 30-17.
"You're going to have nobody from Utah on the floor," Johnson said. "How 'bout Deron Williams? How about Mehmet Okur?"
Center Okur and point guard Williams were the Jazz's other two All-Star hopefuls, and both remain eligible to be tapped when NBA commissioner David Stern — who may also factor Anthony's suspension into his decision — names an injury replacement for Yao at a to-be-determined date.
Ditto should Stern also need to replace Boozer, who seemed surprised both teammates were snubbed.
"I'm biased," Boozer said. "I feel like Memo (Okur) was playing good enough to be in as a center ... And I thought Deron had a great chance, an equal chance as (Spurs point) Tony Parker."
Yet he isn't sure either has a chance now.
"Besides (those) 15 games (Anthony) missed, he easily could have been thought about as an MVP candidate with the way he's played," Boozer said. "I wouldn't be surprised if he's selected as Yao's replacement."
As for his own selection, Boozer — who is averaging a career-high 22.1 points and career-high 11.8 rebounds this season — believes it's well-deserved.
"I was really excited, of course, to see myself up there with some of the other great players in the NBA," said Boozer, a 2004 United States Olympian.
"I think it makes a huge statement," he added, memories of the frustration of his first two years in Utah being marred by a 31-game absence due to a foot injury two seasons ago and a 49-game absence because of a hamstring injury last season — not to mention the criticism he received from Jazz owner Larry H. Miller over his play back in the 2004-05 season. "I mean, there have been a lot of things said ... But (this) just silences a lot of critics. Not only does it prove I belong but also that I'm one of the elite players in the league."
As for whether he will be one of the elite actually playing in Las Vegas, Boozer — who'll travel there either way — vows the issue is not nearly as much of a closed case as TNT evidently believes.
To that end, he said he'll continue to ice the knee, use a bone stimulator to promote healing, drink as much milk as he can — and refuse to view Thursday's honor as bittersweet, even in light of a terrifically ill-timed injury.
"It's not bitter to me at all, because I'm really excited that the coaches voted me in," Boozer said. "I can't even put into words how sweet it is for me. I wouldn't put bitter into it at all, because there's still a chance I can play."