'Chicago Jazz' ready for Utah reunion

'Chicago Jazz' ready for Utah reunion
February 9, 2011, 4:08 pm
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Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2011
Posted: 10:02 a.m. Updated: 7:33 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

SALT LAKE CITYSeeking to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season, the subplots abound as the Bulls prepare to face the Jazz at Energy Solutions Arena Wednesday night. The name of Utahs home court is fitting, as Chicago has been struggling to ramp up the intensity as of lateon the defensive end, in particularwith Derrick Rose specifically being called out (although it was later denied) by an opponent for his supposed lack of defensive prowess after the teams loss Monday in Portland, in which the Bulls gave up over 100 points for the second consecutive game. Of course, the fanfare surrounding the matchup with Jazz is focused on the return to Utah of offseason acquisitions Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver, all of whom played in Salt Lake City.

Booz ready for Jazz fans reaction

Of the ex-Jazzmen, the most polarizing figure is Boozer, who was a two-time All-Star in Utah, yet earned fans scorn for his injury issues, as well as ill-timed comments about his future. But while Boozer doesnt pretend its just a regular game, he also isnt concerned about his reception.

Im looking forward to it. Ill probably hear some boos, probably here some cheers. Most arenas we go into, we hear boos, so Im not worried about it, said Boozer, before joking, Its all Booz to me.

Im not worried about his reception from Utah fans at all. I had a great time while I was here, great memories, fans were great to me. We had some great teams, competed for a title, fell short, he continued. I just play. Ive been in a lot of games. I had a similar situation when I went back to Cleveland. Ive played a lot of basketball games in my career, so Im more prepared for it than some people may think.

Both his current and former teammates hope Jazz fans will at least acknowledge his contributions to the teams past success before the game begins.

Hopefully its a good reception because he did a lot for this organization. I feel like if he gets booed, hes going to feel like theyre saying Booz anyway. I feel like hes going to take it positively and hes going to have a good showing, said Brewer. Its just how hes viewed in other peoples eyes. I think in that locker room, people knew what type of guy he was on the court and off the court, and what he meant to this organization.

When things were going down and the comments he made, nobody took it personally. The coaches didnt take it personal. We knew what type of player and what type of guy he was. Hes a stand-up guy and he meant a lot, and hes a good friend of mine. Some of it maybe was warranted and maybe the words were twisted a little bit. Other timespeople make mistakes, but I knew what type of guy he was and hes a good guy to have on the team, continued his current and former teammate. Only one team can win every year, so every other team, somebodys got to be held accountable for it and the majority of the time, its your superstar or the guy whos making the most money, the guy thats having the best numbers, and if hes averaging 20 and 10 throughout the season, and he averages 16 and eight, hes going to feel like hes a letdown in the playoffs. Hes still having great numbers and still carrying the team, but thats why theyre superstar players because they can warrant that criticism and play through it.

Added Williams, Boozers former point guard: He did a lot for this organization, this franchise. Won a lot of games, was a great player, had two All-Star Games, had a lot of accolades when he was here. I think he should be remembered in a good way.

Hes a 20-10 guy, but we have big Al Jefferson now, Williams added, as Jefferson, acquired in the summer, walked by. (Jefferson responded, Appreciate it, D-Will.)

He left us and now we have Big Al.

As for Boozers former coach, Bulls legend Jerry Sloan was complimentary when describing the power forward.

I thought he was a terrific player. Always did. When he came here, he was a very good passer, he could put the ball on the floor, he sees whats going on in the game and when he gets around the basket, he rebounds the ball. Hes got terrific hands, said the NBAs longest-tenured head coach. The only thing that happened was that people were on his butt because he didnt play. When he played, I didnt have a problem at all. He was a terrific guy to coach. Hes just a heck of a player. My relationship with him was fine. We werent dinner buddies or anything like that, but we appreciated what he did and what he brought to our team every night because when you lose a player with his abilities, its not easy to replace.

Hes a team basketball player. I never thought he was a selfish guy.

Teammates, Coach Sloan, great environment. I grew up a lot here in the NBA in Utah. Its great to come back and see so many friendly faces, so many people I have memories with.

Me and Kyle and Ronnie have already been talking about itgoing to the hotel, instead of going to our houses. Coming here in another uniform. It already feels kind of weird actually.

Theyre not struggling. They had a little lull. Theyre still playing well, theyre in the playoff hunt. You know how it is in the Westtheyre still a very talented team. A lot of talent on that team, very well coached. D-Will is playing out of his mind again, its normal for him. Theyll be fine.

Boozer reciprocated the respect he has for Sloan.

Hes one of those real dudes. So many people out there are fake and they say one thing to your face, say something else behind your back. Jerry wasnt that way. Jerry would tell you like it is right in front of your face and say the same thing to someone else behind your back. Great coach, great friend. Hes one of those types of guys that you can relate to because hes a regular guy. Even though hes in the Hall of Fame, you wouldnt know it if you met him on the street. Great legacy, said Boozer. But he doesnt want any accolades. He just wants his team to be successful.

Regarding the potentially negative reaction most expect him to receive, Boozer had a message for fans that dont wish him well: You need them to keep me motivated. Little do they know, haters motivate. Guys like me take that in stride and use that as a fuel.

Brewer reflects upon Utah tenure

Unlike Boozer (who was drafted by Cleveland, then signed with Utah in free agency) and Korver (who began his career in Philadelphia before being traded to Utah), Brewer was a Jazz draftee and only departed Utah after being traded to Memphis in the middle of last season.

I got drafted here and they made a sacrifice to pick me so high. I developed here and made some good friends, built some good relationships with the coaches and I just felt like we had a good thing here, but unfortunately we had to part ways. I think both parties did it for the best, said Brewer. Its been a while since Ive been practicing here, but it feels good to get a good sweat. Talked to some of the guys whove been here and Im just happy to be back.

You know its a tough place to play. For us, its going to be a tough place to win, but me, Booz and Kyle, we know what to expect, know how the fans are. Youre going to have to come with good effort on both ends of the floor and hopefully we come away with the win, he continued before being questioned about whether or not he thinks hell be applauded by Jazz fans. You never know. To me, I dont think about that too much. If I was in their shoes and an opposing team was coming, Id be cheering for the home team anyway, no matter who it was and youve got to respect it. Hopefully itll be good, but if its not, youve still got to play the game.

Thats never been my game, to try to press. Play and let the game come to me, try to make energy plays on the defensive end and hopefully it leads to positive offensive playsmaybe in the game there will be a hard foul here or there, but I dont think theres going to be too much trash talking. I think were going to just play the game and respect it. Each team is going to try to come up with the win because we both need it.

Brewer discussed the appreciation he has for Sloan, someone generally not fond of playing young players.

I respect him to the utmost. Basically because he could have gave up on me after my rookie year. He doesnt really play rookies that much and he stuck with me, let me continue to improve, continue to work hard, really taught me the true meaning of being a professional player. I got to start, develop as a basketball player on the court and off the court. I built a good relationship with him and its an honor to play for him.

Sloan was equally as effusive in his praise of the swingman.

Ronnie Brewer came here and he was a terrific athletestill is a terrific athletebut the amount of work he didhe got a lot of our guys starting to work in the summer, realizing the amount of work you can do to make yourself better and he probably pushed it to the max, as far as the work he did off the floor, said Sloan. He worked hard in practice and did all those things, but the bottom line was, he had to do the work and he did the work. I always appreciate that about any player that plays for you, how hard they work. I always think you have a chance to win with those kind of people.

Brewer, a native of Arkansashe also played his college ball in the same staterecalled his rookie season in Salt Lake City.

When I first got drafted, truthfully, Id never really heard of it, never been here before. I talked to D-Will about it and I was able to get in contact with Paul Millsap and Dee Brownme and Dee Brown had the same agent. Actually coming out here, it wasnt that bad. It was a little cold, but I say that before I came to Chicagofeel the real coldbut I wasnt really used to the snow, said Brewer. But everybody out here was really friendly. They supported what I did out here with the Jazz. Its not common in the NBA. As you all know, you all go to some places on the road and they dont even have 50 percent of the arena filled. You come out hereand same thing in Chicagonight in and night out, you have fans supporting you, so I really respected that and its honor to both organizations, what these teams mean to the cities and I really enjoyed living out here.

When I came out here, I was 21 years old, so a lot of guys at the time were the same ageC.J. Miles was a little younger than me, D-Will was about the same age, Paul Millsap was my age, Dee Brown was my ageso we were pretty tight. We hung around each other a lot, played a lot of video games, watched a lot of moves, but at the end of the day, youre out here for a job, for a reason, he continued. Theres a lot to do in Chicago and thats all nice and good, but at the end of the day, youre out there to play basketball and you really realize that and understand that when you come out here, and you kind of welcome it and you just take it in stride, I guess.

While the Salt Lake City social scene doesnt compare to Chicago, for instance, Brewer believes it helped make him a better player.

To meespecially with Sloan on your back all the timeyoure in the gym before practice, after practice, watching film with a coach. These facilities are open 24 hours, so its good to come out here and get some shots up at nighttime and be able to relax.

The fact that Sloan also played shooting guard also furthered his development. Although Brewer wasnt playing the Jazz glamour positions of point guard and power forwardBoozer and Williams had to follow in the footsteps of Hall of Famers Karl Malone and John Stocktonhe did replace a Utah fan favorite in Jeff Hornacek.

More, not offensively, but defensively, Sloan challenged the twos more than anybody else because he knew what it took and how its supposed to be done the right way and how its effort. Its not anything with talent. If you want to do it, night in and night out, you should be able to do it. He used to give the example of Jeff Hornacek, how his knee was messed up, but he used to play every game and still give the effort and still hustled and still guarded some of the best players to ever play the game. So, its not about athletic ability or talent. Its about effort and the will to do it, Brewer explained. Youve got to find your niche. He was more of a catch-and-shoot guy, I was more of a slasher, so I had to watch film and study. For me to be effective, I had to do certain things. Work the baseline, cut when my man wasnt looking and work on my mid-range jump shot. I almost averaged 14 points a game one year.

I found a way to make it work and I guess thats what happens when you play with a great point guard.

Brewers moved on from the hurt he initially felt after being traded last season, aided by some familiar faces in Chicago.

It made it a whole lot easier. In Utah, traffic is a whole lot different than Chicago traffic, so Kyle was going through the same terror stories that I was going through, being all nervous to be late for Thibs. On the court, we know each others strengths and weaknesses, so that made the game a lot easier.

Korver fond of former residence, excited about matchup

Although Korver hasnt expressed any dissatisfaction about being in Chicagoon or off the courthe certainly wasnt bashful about his positive recollections of his stint in Utah.

It is freezing cold out there, so I have not touched my clubs.

Its not a normal stop. Its fun. I dont feel like theres added pressure. Im really enjoying it. Maybe Ill feel different right before tip. Im looking forward to seeing friends, said Korver, who joked that Chicagos climate has prevented him from enjoying from his pastime of golf and that while hes feverishly trying to get tickets for friends, he thinks hell be in luck because not that many people know people in Utah.

Im sure Ill be back here playing golf with Deron. Im pretty sure were going to be doing the dodgeball tournament again. Im sure there will be trips here and there. I rented my place out to Jazz backup point guard Earl Watson, so I still have a place where I can stay.

Still, Korver has no regrets about his decision to come to the Bulls.

Its been good. Its a great sports town. Its packed every night, just like it was here. The city has a lot going on, theres a lot of culture. Its close to home for me, so my familys been able to drive up for games, which is something that they hadnt been able to do, said the easygoing Korver, who seemed mildly annoyed at a local reporters insistence on asking him about his legion of female fans in Utah. Were winning. We have a really good team. We havent played well the last couple of games, but we have a team thats capable of doing something.

Theres definitely similarities. Weve got three fairly big pieces from Utah that are there now. Weve got a great point guard, just like we did here. Weve got a tough coach, just like we did here. We put in half the offense that we ran here because weve got similar players, so there are similarities. Theres also some huge differences in philosophy.

Jazzs Williams happy to see ex-teammates, praises Rose

Utah All-Star point guard Deron Williams hasnt been exempt from the recent trend of superstars either angling to team up via free agency or at least entertaining premature speculation about departing their current situation, but all of that was pushed to the back burner upon his friendshe had dinner with Brewer and Korver Tuesday nightand former teammates returning to town.

Theres a lot of games you go through where you come across people you played against. They definitely have three guys that we know pretty well on this team and they know us. Its kind of a wash, said Williams. We had great times. We had great years here with all those guys. Won a lot of basketball games, had fun on the court, off the court. Three great teammates that we had that are on the other team.

When asked about his matchup with Rose, Williams threw several plaudits the Chicago point guards way as if he were making bounce passes.

D-Rose is a great point guard, one of the best in the league. I just look forward to it. I always look forward to playing against the best. He is, lauded the two-time All-Star, who said Rose would definitely have to be up there and in consideration for the leagues MVP award.

Just his speed and quickness. One of the most athletic guys in this league. One of the fastest guys with the ball. Hes always in attack mode. Just got to try to stop him from getting to the hole as best as you can, but now hes added a three-point shot, so hes even more deadly.

Rose also showed tremendous respect for his adversary.

Williams is a great playerits going to be a challenge. Thats why I love playing in this league, said Rose. Physical. Plays physical throughout the whole game and if anything, thats what Im learning to do.

When asked to compare the two players, Korver, Boozer and Brewer identified few similarities.

Theyre both capable of taking over the game. Theyre both great. Theyre two of the topmaybe the top twopoint guards. They both make life easier for me, said Korver. Derricks quieter. A lot quieter, which isnt necessarily a good or bad thing, just a difference in personality. Derrick, he speaks up when he has to. Hes definitely the leader of the team, but hes not as vocal in the locker room.

Theyre both physically gifted. Derons a little bit bigger. Derrick is perhaps the most explosive athlete in the NBA. Deron, hes a great athlete, too. Theyve both developed their jump shots the last couple years. I like playing with both of them, Im not going to lie.

Added Boozer: Different guys, different players. D-Rose is probably one of the top five, six scorers in the league, hands down. Any night, anywhere, he can score with the best of them. D-Will probably has the best vision of any point guard in the league. Fit the ball through any hole, no matter what it is. Two very different guys. Both have a great hunger to win, great desire, but they have very different styles.

Williams was one of those guys who came into practice every day, worked his butt off and youd see him progress every year. He got vastly better than the year before. Hes a natural leader. He always had that, he continued. He always was self-assured, very confident and you could see his game improving. He got himself in shape over and over and over again, came in great shape, was always first or second in sprints, always hit big shots. Hes a stud player and to his own credit, hes very highly motivated.

Brewer chimed in: Totally different. D-Will, he jokes around, he clowns a little bit, but at the same time, hes serious on the court. Thats about the only similarity that I see between the two guys. On the court, theyre serious, theyre all about business and they want to wintheyll do anything it possibly takes to win the game.

D-Rose is one of the fastest, one of the most athletic guys and can finish at the rim better than any perimeter player or guard, I think, in the game right now and D-Will is like the ultimate floor general. Being able to operate and tell guys where theyre going to be and knowing where guys are going to be before theyre even there, he continued. There were times when I was here, where Id cut or Id see an opening and Id look up, and the ball would already be almost in my hands, and thats what type of player he is. But other than them both playing point guard, to me, thats the only similarity because they have two totally different games.

Williams is a great competitor and as an athlete, you want to win every time you step on the court. Off the court, were best friends and on the court, were going to be battling. Its going to be fun to go against some of the guys and see some familiar faces.

Bulls legend Sloan typically unsentimental about trios return

Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan, an Illinois native and legend as a Bulls player, isnt known for having a woe-is-me attitude, so it wasnt surprising when he didnt get overly emotional when discussing his former players.

Thats like having a reaction when Stockton and Malone left. What are you going to do about it? Our job still remains the same. We try to coach whoevers here, doesnt make any difference what the situation is and hopefully we can help them get better and make the team halfway decent. I dont cry about I dont get the guys that I want, said the hard-nosed coach. This organizations always tried to do things the right way. We dont spend a lot of money in those situations, generally speaking. Ive always known the parameters I work under. Thats never been a problem with me at all.

Sloan did say that his teams familiarity with the departed trio could help in the matchup.

You would think that individually you would know how to play certain guys that have been on your team before, but that doesnt mean you can stop them, said Sloan. The idea has to be of team focustry to stop the whole teamrather than, Got to stop this guy and this guy and this guy. We know were playing against a very good team.

Sloan also seemed impressed with the Bulls play under first-year head coach Tom Thibodeau, as well as the teams makeup.

Their whole philosophy of playing the game is good because theyre very good defensively. The numbers indicate that and thats the approach that theyve taken,

How many young players do they have on the floor? Rose is the youngest guy. The rest of the guys are pretty experienced players.

Brewer compared the two coaches.

Theyre very strict, hardcore and they stick to their system. Sloans been doing the same thing for numerous years and had some success, so why change it? Thibs has been doing the same thing, coaching defense. Defense wins championships. Hes had some success; hes not going to change it. Those are the similarities I see with those guys and to me, the transitions easy because if you can take criticism and somebody on your back as much as Sloan, I think anywhere else in the league youre capable of the same thing, said Brewer. To me, if you cant take criticismconstructive criticismfor the good, you shouldnt be playing basketball. You should be a student of the game, always willing to learn to get better and if a coach is trying to get on you to make you better, you should be willing to soak that in like a sponge and go out there and put in the effort.

Thats just a day youve got to travel. Im not worried about those sort of things. Never have. Its not that important, never has been important to me. The only thing that was important to me is I thought my job was to play, go home. I never spent any time with the other stuff. We had a good bunch of guys I played with. I was fortunate to have good guys to play with. Things didnt work out as well as Id like when I was coaching with the Bulls, but thats a part of it. I dont have any animosity toward anybody.

I saw them periodically. I would run into a guy here and there, but everybodys got their own wants and desires. Some people would rather be playing golf than something like that. Id rather be loafing around a farm than doing something like that. Its not a big deal to me.

Well, obviously I dont think anybody wants to get firedthings dont go right, youre held responsible for it and you move forwardI went on with my life, went in a different direction and I got lucky and things went well for me.

Concurred Boozer: They have a lot of very similar characteristics. Both highly motivated to win, very passionate about the game. Thats why the reason theyre two really good coaches.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.