While Miami, Chicago and New York fawn over their heralded free agent pickups, Phoenix, Cleveland, Toronto and Utah are left to figure out how to move on.
The Cavs, still shell-shocked, probably don’t know. The Raptors aren’t surprised, but neither are they prepared. The Suns started signing replacements before Amar’e Stoudemire officially left, albeit far less talented ones.
The Jazz? They feel neither heartbroken nor stranded. Like the Suns, Utah had grown increasingly disenchanted with their star forward over the years. Too many injuries. Too few big games when most needed. Too little sense of loyalty. It only made sense for Carlos Boozer to leave the solid Rocky Mountains for the whimsical Windy City.
No, Jazz fans knew Boozer was leaving as soon as he hit the market, were irate, in fact, when he didn’t opt out of his contract a year earlier.
Utah isn’t left to scramble for help, either. Paul Millsap has been waiting in the wings for a couple years now, salivating at the chance to prove himself in a starter’s role. Fans have been pining for this moment.
Unlike Boozer, Millsap is healthy. Unlike Boozer, he rebounds tenaciously. Unlike Boozer, there seems to be an edge there, a thirst to be as good as he can be.
Granted, those could be fans’ thoughts merely inspired by the thought of something new, something different. What’s different is often misconstrued as better, but there’s no denying this is a hell of a lot better than what Cleveland, Toronto and Phoenix can fall back on.
In fact, Utah’s ready to duplicate this replacement-through-cheaper-means process with Kyle Korver. The sharpshooter in all likelihood (much to Utah females’ dismay) will leave to sign with another team in this buyers market. Again, the Jazz are prepared, with unearthed gem Wes Matthews and lottery pick Gordon Hayward ready to fill the gap.
Still, when you lose something for nothing, there’s some slippage. The bench will take a hit with Millsap sliding to a starting role. Millsap may not be able to replace Boozer’s offensive aptitude. He’s still an undersized forward with no hopes of hanging with the Lakers’ frontline.
Losing Boozer and (possibly) Korver is a hit, make no mistake. But it’s a hit Utah is fortunate to be able to absorb.
The other teams? They’re still picking themselves up off the ground.