Boozer ready to roll but is still cautious

The Desert News.Com is reporting that “Around this time last year, the Jazz were giddy about the tip-top shape in which big-man Carlos Boozer reported to training camp.
      Boozer gloated, too.
      By the end of the first week, however, the would-be front-line starter was down and out with a bad hamstring — an injury that kept him from playing until February.
      Now, during the Jazz’s opening week of their 2006 camp at Boise State University, reviews on Boozer’s conditioning have registered rave yet again — from franchise officials and Boozer himself.
      “His conditioning,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, “is better, probably, than what it was a year ago.”
      Boozer went so far as to say he feels “definitely better” than he did when camp got under way last year: “I feel great,” the 24-year-old said. “Hamstrings are terrific. Every part of my body is terrific.”
      Yet there are hints of potential cause for pause on Sloan’s part.
      “He may be just a little bit cautious at times now,” the Jazz coach said mid-week.
      “I’m sure probably in the back of his mind there’s probably some things like that going on with it,” Sloan added after a Friday-night scrimmage in which Boozer scored nine points on an efficient 4-of-6 shooting from the field — not exactly dominating but not shying away from the action either. “But it’s still early.”
      Perhaps the tentativeness is because Boozer does not want to miss 49 games to start the season, as he did last year.
      Perhaps it’s because he wants to play more than 51 games this year, something he has not done since he was playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2003-04 season — his second in the NBA out of Duke.
      In any event, Sloan seems to hope it’s only because camp is still just a few days old: “Maybe (it’s) to start out with,” he said, “until he gets his feet under him.”
      Sloan can’t be sure — but refuses to rush pursuit of the answer, even though he also says, “We need Boozer to get on top of his game.”
      Instead, he’d much rather trust trainer Gary Briggs to tell him if there ever is anything physically wrong with Boozer — or any player, for that matter.
      “I don’t run to them and (ask), ‘Are you doing OK?”” Sloan said. “Because sometimes you feel like if you ask them you kind of jinx them or something.”
      Boozer, for his part, went into camp maintaining he has no fears of a setback similar to 2005 — when his body broke down despite ample offseason work.
      The reason, he said early in the week, stems from a different training regimen he endured this past summer.
      According to Boozer, he spent an hour each weekday running and a few hours afterward playing pickup ball near his summer home in Miami. That’s much more work on the track, and on the court, than the previous summer.
      The result: At 265 pounds with 4.8 percent body fat, the Alaska native said he feels much lighter than in 2005.
      Boozer said he also received massage treatment once or twice each week, “so I don’t have more muscle problems.”
      As for the suggestion from Sloan that he has played somewhat cautiously during the week, Boozer conceded Friday that that’s indeed the case.
      It’s not just a subconscious happenstance, either.
      “I went very hard,” he said with two-a-day camp workouts now a thing of the past. “But, at the same time, I wanted to make sure I didn’t do anything to jeopardize my health. Which is smart. Absolutely.
      “It’s just one of those things where you want to be aware,” Boozer added. “I’m aware of my body more than ever now.”