What changed? Well, it was Carlos Boozer.
Now, this blog has been on Team BoozBooz since we started, but we can't say, "We told you so." See, as much as I have thought Boozer is the best player on the team--or at least the most irreplaceable--I never envisioned he would play like this.
Remember that weird loss to the Hornets on 4 January? It seemed like an extremely low point. Deron Williams sat out the next game vs. Memphis, and the Jazz straight rolled the Grizzlies in the ESA. (I usually don't like abbreviations, but I heard that Energy Solutions doesn't like when The Arena is called "ESA". I don't like stupid stadium/arena/ballpark names, and therefor I am going to write it ESA. Verbally I think I will switch to "The Arena" since "The Larry" has never caught on.)
After the huge win, Boozer made reference to the Jazz playing better when the ball moves around on offense. He said it was more fun or something.
Jazz fans recalled the win at the 76ers and the near win at Cleveland when Williams was out, and added the Grizzlies game. They started to wonder, "Are the Jazz better without Deron Williams?"
Boozer must have heard this, or at least heard tell of it. Two days after the huge Grizzlies win at ESA, the Jazz next played the Grizzlies in Memphis, again without Williams. They lost, and fans backed away from the better-without-Williams dialogue. Our one reader (besides this new pizza guy) commented here, "I've worried if Williams might qualify for Bill Simmons' Ewing Theory, but then there was last night's game... I'm not sure if I feel better about life or not."
But there was beauty in that game. First, the Jazz slowly came back from a 33-14 1st-quarter deficit. Second, they did it playing physical. So physical, that Boozer got in a bit of a fight after he knocked a Grizzlies player down hard. Then, he kept fouling them hard. I think he was the one who made Marc Gasol cry.
Boozer and Williams seem to have too much respect for certain well-known players (ex. Williams' terrible performances against Derek Fisher in the playoffs). They tend to be too nice, not wanting to become controversial. Plus, Williams worries that nobody will spaz over dunks at the Dunk Contest with him should he ever make it to an All-Star game*.
Bu no more. That Grizzlies loss becamse known as Boozer's Rampage. Look at B's Twits after the game:
-Boozer is on a rampage! He's dismantling the Grizzlies. #utahjazz
Jan 8th from Twitterrific
-Carlos Boozer has fouled out and is trashing
the locker room. #utahjazz
8:39 PM Jan 8th from Twitterrific
has been escorted out of the building and is in the parking lot eating tires.
8:41 PM Jan 8th from Twitterrific
-Boozer has broken the
hot wing record at D'Bo's. Forty-nine wings in forty-nine seconds. With the
hottest sauce. #utahjazz
8:51 PM Jan 8th from Twitterrific
Boozer just stole Elvis's gold Rolls Royce and crashed it into the Pink Palace.
9:08 PM Jan 8th from Twitterrific
-Carlos Boozer has
kicked down Marc Gasol's door, is trying on all his shirts and stretching out
the collars. #utahjazz
9:48 PM Jan 8th from Twitterrific
(by the way, if you do a search for #Boozer, you get a lot of Twits from this gal. I should have known. [The cat is keeping her ass warm])
He was just getting started. Now, the rest of the team was going to join him. The next game they played was against the Heat at ESA. Dizzwaynye Wade got knocked around in the first quarter, and had to go the the locker room for a few minutes. Coming back offered him no respite. Almost every time he drove the lane, and Jazz or two would bump him.
Then there was Boozer's dunk on Haslem. Instead of screaming and heading back downcourt, Boozer was kind of a jerk and stood over Haslem. I usually hate this, but it showed the new Boozer.
A few days later was a game against the Cavaliers. Williams got into the act of playing hardcore. He had a run-in with LeBron James, and seemed legitimately pissed at LeBron, not just this-game-is-so-intense-and-I-am-so-intense-case-in-point-I-just-made-an-awesome-play-but-I-am-scowling pissed. (I call this kind of look "Happiness by LeBron James"). We all know how that game finished.
The Jazz are different. Yes they lost to Denver, but they kept coming back from deficits. Then they beat the Spurs. Then they killed the already dead Nets. Which was maybe taking things too far, but don't worry, the Nets couldn't feel it.
It all seems like Boozer stepped up and took on a different role. Maybe it was because he heard Jazz fans talking bad about what appeared to be a golden cow (D. Williams), or maybe he believed it himself that the Jazz don't really need Williams. Whatever it is, this has become Boozer's Team. Watch the way he plays and the way he kind of encourages teammates. Then take notes of the comments he made about how he wouldn't trade himself, or anybody, if he were the Jazz.
Yep, Boozer is finally becoming a Power Forward/man. Either that, or Sundiata Gaines' arrival is what has made all the difference. It does coincide with all of this.
*=Players should be banned from watching the Dunk Contest from the front row. They try to steal camera time from the actual dunkers by straight freaking after everything. You know, they put their clenched fist to their mouth as they smile, as if to say, "No he didn't." But he did, doofus. Not only did he, but almost anyone can do that dunk. Are you drunk? Stoned? LeBron James took this to the next level last year when he vowed to compete with Dwight Howard in the next dunk contest (this year's). To no one's surprise, he isn't in this year's contest.