Welcome home? Not quite

Charlie Morrissey, Sports Manager

When the Bulls were scheduled to play the Utah Jazz on February 9th, the storyline was already set: Carlos Boozer returning to Utah for the first time since his departure last summer. Boozer gave the Jazz six seasons of solid production. For the last four years in Utah, he averaged a double-double, including two years in which he averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds. But this had seemingly all been forgotten when Boozer returned to Utah in an opposing uniform for the first time in six years. How was the reaction to his return? Well, for one, every time he touched the ball the crowd booed loudly, and no, Utah fans weren’t saying Booz like they used to.

Did Boozer deserve this reaction? He isn’t Lebron James returning to Cleveland in a Miami Heat jersey, and it was pretty obvious that he was going to leave as a free agent. Most of the animosity towards Boozer came from him missing 138 games during his stint in Utah, including the final game of the 2010 regular season, which would have improved their playoff seed if they had won. Fans thought he could have played through some of those injuries because none of them required surgery of any kind.

I think each case of a player returning to face his former team should be treated differently. Fans get too emotional over a player’s return and tend to forget what that player did for several years. The Lebron case is an exception because James handled things pretty poorly. Boozer, on the other hand, had a little bit of a rocky ending, but that does not cancel out his six years in Utah. When he was playing there, the Utah fans could not question his effort and production for the Jazz. Since he had been an all-star in Utah and that’s where he became a star in the league, it was hard for the fans to let go.

It is obvious that role players that return to their former teams do not get the same reaction as Boozer in most cases. This was apparent when Bulls reserves and former Jazz members checked into the game for the first time since their departures. Ronnie Brewer entered the game in the first quarter to loud cheers that seemed even louder when contrasted with Boozer’s entrance. Kyle Korver received the same reception when he checked in during the second quarter. The fans were not as attached to these players, so that is why they were welcomed when they came back. 

Each scenario of a player returning to face his former team is different, and Boozer should not have gotten booed. He looked bothered by it during the game as he was forcing shots at times. He finished with 14 points and six rebounds on just 6 of 16 shooting. The Jazz fans apparently got what they wanted, though the Bulls won in the end. Boozer deserved a better reunion, especially as a long time Jazz star.