Life’s not about the destination; it’s the journey that’s important. It’s something that I think I’ve heard from every clichéd graduation speaker and encouraging family friend in my life. It’s also a phrase that most of us casually toss aside. But for Carlos Boozer, it’s something that he’s taken an exception to embracing in his own basketball journey. And his path has been one of success just as much as trial and error.
It’s a road that has led him from Juneau, Alaska, to a national championship at Duke, to the NBA in Cleveland, Utah, and now the Chicago Bulls. Along that path, he has amassed an Olympic gold medal, two All-Star appearances and an inside game that is rivaled by only few. In his eighth year in the League last season, Boozer was able to pour in 19.6 points and 10.8 rebounds a game for the Jazz — who also advanced to the second round of the playoffs. In short, he’s been a beast since entering the League as a second-round pick in 2002.
As this summer’s free agency circus ran the media — and every team under the cap — into a frenzy, Boozer quietly waited out the South Beach storm and signed with Chicago in early July. With a horde of teams capable of snagging the 6-9, 266-pound forward, Boozer felt the Bulls presented him with the best opportunity.
“They want to win. They want to win for a long time,” he says. “They have the championship pedigree there and they have the DNA in place with the talent. All we have to do is go work and compete every night and prove that we’re worthy of being called a contender. And it’s something that you have to earn.
“I think we’re a young, hungry team, full of guys that don’t have a championship and we want one. It’s not an easy road to take, but we’re willing to take that road.”
And for a guy who’s been accustomed to the road his whole life, that shouldn’t be a problem. In Dime #58, Boozer talked about his summer move:
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Dime: So why Chicago? Why was it the best fit for you?
Carlos Boozer: Just everything was encompassing. I think the talent was obviously there; they have a bunch of young talent. I know with D-Rose and Joakim (Noah) and Luol Deng, and then you add me to the mix with the young guys that they got. Then the Draft last season and with a new coach that won a championship in ’08 with the Celtics, it just seemed like the right fit. You know, I think [it’s] a team that’s really going to get back to that championship level. They have [the plan] in place just to get it done, they just need to put some more pieces into the puzzle and I’m looking forward to being a part of that puzzle.
Dime: What’s your relationship with the city like? Are you pretty familiar with it?
CB: A little bit. I’ve been there a couple times here and there trying to find a place [to live] and it’s awesome. I’m going tell you, they’re huge on sports … They love their sports in Chicago. I’ve been there a short period of time, but that’s the overwhelming feeling. They support their teams. They come out. A lot of the same fans you’ll see at the baseball and football games will be at the basketball games too. It’s great to be a part of a sports town … they’re super loyal.
Dime: Why was now the best time to leave Utah?
CB: Ah, I was a free agent number one (laughs). And number two, obviously I grew up (as a player) in Utah and had a great time out there with Coach (Jerry) Sloan and with my teammates. I definitely miss a lot of things about Utah — and I had great teammates and coaches, and the city embraced me — so it was great to be a part of it. But at this time, this was the best opportunity for me this summer and I look forward to it.
Dime: What are your thoughts on the whole free agency stampede this summer?
CB: Obviously there was a lot being speculated upon on where everybody was going to go. But everybody is in place — well, not everybody, but most the big players have already signed with their teams — and it’s going to be fun to see what happens next season ’cause I think Miami’s going to have a very good team. It’s going to be interesting to see what New York is able to pull off. Not necessarily next season, but maybe with trades and (free agency) next summer with some of the guys that may be up-and-coming. But Joe Johnson being able to stay in Atlanta, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens the rest of the way. ’Cause you know, I think the East has gotten loaded up this summer. The West will obviously still be good, but the East has gotten better — especially the top of the East. And you look at the teams like the Bulls, Miami, Boston, Orlando and Atlanta; all teams that are still going to be really good, or improved — are going to be much improved. So it’s going to be an interesting race this season.
Dime: So then is Miami the team to beat in the East?
CB: No. I would say, listen: Boston represented the East last year and I think until somebody beats them in the Playoffs, they’re going to be the team to beat. You know, I think two years ago with Orlando representing the East and then last year with Boston … In my opinion, those four or five teams that I just talked about will be in competition for that top spot. I think Boston, us, Miami, the Hawks (and Orlando) will be right there in the mix for that top spot. But who gets it, we’ll have to wait and see.
Dime: During the summer you’re very involved with your foundation. Tell me a little about it and what you’ve been trying to accomplish.
CB: Yeah, it’s the Boozer’s Buddies Foundation. It’s to raise money for those kids that have sickle cell anemia, so it can cure them or get them medicine to help the disease. My son had it and we gave him a bone marrow transplant two years back and it cured him of it. So what we try to do, we try to raise money through camps and various charity events that we do, to help out those families that can’t afford to take care of their kid or their family member with either the medicines or even the bone marrow transplant procedures themselves.
Dime: What’s the best part of being associated with something this important to so many people?
CB: Just seeing their family member get better. I think the best thing about it is being able to help somebody that may not be able to stay in a hospital (financially) or pay for their hospital bills. Just different things like that are really rewarding because you’re able to see the difference right away. Whether the child can stay in a hospital and get the medicine that he/she needs or whether the bone marrow transplant is able to get done so they can be completely healthy. All those things are rewarding to us…We’re going on like our third year. Doing really well. I think it’s a great thing for us to do.
I think if you’re able to help, you should, right?