Bulls forward Carlos Boozer blows a kiss to the sky after hitting his free throw in the second quarter of the Chicago Bulls-Sacramento Kings NBA game Wednesday October 31, 2012 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
The facts: 6:30 p.m., CSN, 1000-AM.
Updated: December 3, 2012 6:51AM
CLEVELAND — There are still what-ifs for Carlos Boozer.
Just not the obvious ones.
Then again, Boozer always has been an outside-the-box thinker.
It has been almost nine seasons since he played alongside LeBron James in Cleveland, and after seeing James hold up that championship trophy with the Heat last summer, Boozer was asked Thursday if he thought about what could have been.
What if he wouldn’t have left Cleveland for Utah after the 2003-04 season? Could he and James have been a good enough duo to have done it together with the Cavaliers?
“No, my what-if last year was if we would’ve stayed healthy, we think we would’ve won the championship,’’ Boozer said. ‘‘That was my what-if last year. I felt like if we were healthy, we would’ve had a chance to win a championship ourselves.’’
Translation: The Cavaliers chapter of his career remains closed.
Unfortunately for Boozer, the feeling isn’t mutual. Cleveland is a sports city that doesn’t forgive or forget. And while Boozer could never surpass former Browns owner Art Modell, James and former Broncos quarterback John Elway in the top three of the most despised sports figures in that city’s history, he definitely is in the top 10.
After that ’03-04 season, the Cavs thought they had an understanding with Boozer on a six-year, $39 million deal if they let him out of his contract. They did, and the Jazz swooped in with a six-year, $70 million offer that Cleveland couldn’t match. Boozer always maintained that there was no commitment made to the Cavs, but in the Cleveland court of public opinion, he was found guilty.
James never delivered a title, then left two years ago. It’s not a topic Boozer wants to discuss.
And the thing is, Boozer still is probably the second-most hated player on the Bulls.
Like he has since the 2009-10 playoffs, Joakim Noah will hear the boos from the Cleveland faithful Friday night after he ripped the city during that playoff loss to the Cavs.
“What’s so good about Cleveland?” Noah said back then. When pressed further by the media, Noah said, “You like it? You think Cleveland is cool? I’ve never heard anyone say, ‘I’m going to Cleveland on vacation.’ ’’
Boozer and Noah can insist that they’ve moved on all they want, but Cleveland hasn’t.
“That story is over,’’ Boozer said, “ask me another question.’’
The way Boozer and Noah see it, the main topic of discussion going into this game should be how well they’ve been working together in the paint.
“It’s getting better and better,’’ Boozer said of teaming with Noah. “That’s part of this chemistry. The first year we were together, we both had a lot of injuries, didn’t have a chance to fuse together. Last year was a whirlwind, but we had the chance to play a lot together, get familiar with each other’s games. Now I know where Jo is going to be at, he knows where I’m going to be at, so we can play off one another pretty good. It’s only going to get better.’’