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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.
Â Â Â Â Â Boozer gloated, too.
Â Â Â By the end of the first week, however, the would-be front-line starter was down and out with a bad hamstring â€” an injury that kept him from playing until February.
Â Â Â 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 â€” from franchise officials and Boozer himself.
Â Â Â “His conditioning,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, “is better, probably, than what it was a year ago.”
Â Â Â 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.”
Â Â Â Yet there are hints of potential cause for pause on Sloan’s part.
Â Â Â “He may be just a little bit cautious at times now,” the Jazz coach said mid-week.
Â Â Â “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 â€” not exactly dominating but not shying away from the action either. “But it’s still early.”
Â Â Â Perhaps the tentativeness is because Boozer does not want to miss 49 games to start the season, as he did last year.
Â Â Â 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 â€” his second in the NBA out of Duke.
Â Â Â 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.”
Â Â Â Sloan can’t be sure â€” but refuses to rush pursuit of the answer, even though he also says, “We need Boozer to get on top of his game.”
Â Â Â Instead, he’d much rather trust trainer Gary Briggs to tell him if there ever is anything physically wrong with Boozer â€” or any player, for that matter.
Â Â Â “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.”
Â Â Â Boozer, for his part, went into camp maintaining he has no fears of a setback similar to 2005 â€” when his body broke down despite ample offseason work.
Â Â Â The reason, he said early in the week, stems from a different training regimen he endured this past summer.
Â Â Â 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.
Â Â Â The result: At 265 pounds with 4.8 percent body fat, the Alaska native said he feels much lighter than in 2005.
Â Â Â Boozer said he also received massage treatment once or twice each week, “so I don’t have more muscle problems.”
Â Â Â As for the suggestion from Sloan that he has played somewhat cautiously during the week, Boozer conceded Friday that that’s indeed the case.
Â Â Â It’s not just a subconscious happenstance, either.
Â Â Â “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.
Â Â Â “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.”