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If having Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer play for the same team in the NBA's Eastern Conference finals is creating some mixed feelings in Utah, imagine how folks are feeling in Cleveland, with Boozer and LeBron James opposing one another.

Those people are not dealing well with the fact that somebody is going to win this series.

The dislike of James undoubtedly tops the lack of love for Boozer, so Clevelanders favor Chicago, to the extent that they care.

The sentiment should be the same in Salt Lake City.

Get over your personal feelings about Boozer, and consider the alternative. The Bulls have to be preferable to Miami.

Mix in the popularity of Korver and Brewer — Boozer's former Jazz teammates — and the Bulls become much more tolerable than the Heat and their overpopulation of stars.

Boozer at least remains a polarizing figure in Utah. That's as opposed to the united front against James in Cleveland, where he coldly deserted the Cavaliers last summer in pursuit of a championship that became a foregone conclusion once he teamed with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.

I scoffed when James cited "the greatest challenge" as his motivation for choosing Miami over Chicago, New York and Cleveland, but it's partly true at the moment.

Judging by Chicago's 103-82 victory in Sunday's Game 1, the Heat have a worthy opponent in a potentially classic series, which continues Wednesday.

Not that they're riveted to this thing in Cleveland. As a lifelong Ohioan until moving to West Jordan five years ago, Dave Baker is qualified to address his homeland's attitude.

"I don't think too many people in Cleveland are watching," he said. "It won't really matter to most of them."

In Cleveland, they're still angry with Boozer for leaving in 2004 and joining the Jazz. In Utah, they're bitter about Boozer's having stayed too long, apparently.

"I would hate to see Boozer get a ring with [Chicago]," said Jazz fan David Maxfield of Salt Lake City. "I think Boozer burned his bridges here in Utah before he even left town."

Yet others appreciate what Boozer brought to the Jazz, helping them win four playoff series in his six seasons.

"I've always liked Boozer, even amongst the rabble-rousing of his detractors in Salt Lake," said Jazz fan Dan Matheson. "I would love to see him, along with Korver and Brewer, help the Bulls to their first post-Michael Jordan title."

So it's exactly 50-50 regarding Boozer in Utah.

OK, I may have edited the results slightly and skewed my panel's findings in Boozer's favor. I'm a defender of this guy, convinced he cares more about winning than many fans wish to believe and that the Jazz were better off with him than without him.

To me, Jazz fans were finding too much glee in Boozer's performance earlier in the playoffs — and in the harsh reaction to it in Chicago. Having overcome his toe injury, he's delivering: 23 points and 10 rebounds in the Game 6 closeout of Atlanta and 14 points and nine boards Sunday against Miami.

Baker, who founded the Salt Lake Dawgs chapter of the Browns Backers when he moved to Utah, is far more devoted to Cleveland's pro football and baseball teams than the Cavs. He still recognizes the coincidence of having lived in Ohio and Utah when Boozer left each place.

"There's no loyalty in sports anymore," he said.

That trait is treasured in Cleveland, which makes James and Boozer traitors there for life. Like it or not, one of them is going to play in the NBA Finals next month.

Baker will barely acknowledge the NBA's existence these days, focusing on how his Cleveland Indians have gone from a 69-93 season to 24-13 (through Sunday), the best record in baseball.

"First place since the season started," Baker marveled. "I can't believe it."

They deserve that in Cleveland, where having only James or Boozer lose this month is not going to satisfy. Twitter: @tribkurt