This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
One year after it happened, the fallout from Boozer-gate is unmistakable.
In Cleveland, Carlos Boozer's controversial decision to leave the Cavaliers and sign a six-year, $68 million deal with Utah shook the local NBA franchise to its core.
In Salt Lake City, Boozer's arrival gave the Jazz a potential All-Star at power forward - but one who missed 31 games because of injury last season and angered owner Larry Miller along the way with some inconsistent play.
Around the NBA, there have also been ramifications because of a wink-wink deal the Cavs apparently made with Boozer that was intended to keep him in Cleveland.
Instead, it exploded in the Cavaliers' face.
"It's definitely changed the way things work," said one Eastern Conference executive. "Nobody will ever do a handshake [agreement] like that again. Never, ever. No way. An owner will never allow it to happen. There's too much at stake - too much to lose."
Like your job.
Since Boozer's decision to leave Cleveland 12 months ago, the Cavaliers have been sold and general manager Jim Paxson, director of player personnel Mike Bratz and coach Paul Silas have been fired.
Former owner Gordon Gund bought the Cavaliers in 1984, in partnership with his brother, for $20 million. Last winter, Gund sold the franchise to real estate and mortgage tycoon Dan Gilbert for $375 million, citing disillusionment as one reason he got out.
"It's been a wonderful ride," Gund said at the time. "[But] I've been getting pretty burned out by the game. When Boozer walked out the door, it really hit me that this is just a business. I started asking around shortly afterward to see how much I could get for the team."
In Utah, the Jazz remain comfortable with their part in the Boozer controversy and their decision to make him a cornerstone of the franchise.
"From our perspective, it's just business as usual," said director of basketball operations Kevin O'Connor.
Are the 26-win Jazz worried that Boozer's injury-shortened season failed to meet expectations?
"Not at all," O'Connor said. "For one thing, he's 23 years old. It was his first year - especially after Andrei [Kirilenko] went down - of being a go-to guy.
"We know there's a certain frustration level out there. People expected this and that. But they have to remember: It was only the guy's third year in the league."
After Boozer-gate, no one blamed the Jazz for exploring every option while attempting to improve their Karl Malone-less team. In fact, O'Connor was unanimously credited with doing a good job.
"He acted ethically and in good faith," one league executive said.
The Cavaliers, on the other hand, broke a couple of NBA rules by talking to Boozer and agent Rob Pelinka - both of whom failed to return phone calls to be interviewed for this story - about a contract before the league-mandated deadline of July 1. The Cavs' belief they had entered into a handshake agreement with Boozer about a long-term contract was another no-no.
That's one irony of the entire situation.
"Maybe they broke a deal" that was in place with the Cavaliers, another league official said. "But they broke an illegal deal."
David Fredman is the assistant general manager of the Denver Nuggets, and a former Jazz employee. "What happened should encourage you to follow the rules because, when you don't, you can get burned," Fredman said. "Side agreements may be a reality, but I don't think they're good for anybody. Any time you go outside the rules, there's a risk."
Obviously, Fredman wasn't present when the alleged handshake deal between Boozer and the Cavs was made.
"I don't know the whole story," he said. "I wasn't involved. I just know what I hear. I think you would've had to been in the room to understand exactly what happened. That said, the rules are there for a reason. They protect the teams as much as they inhibit them. And sometimes, when you attempt to skirt the rules, that can come back and bite you."
Boozer has always denied any handshake deal was in place when he decided to sign with the Jazz, whose $68 million offer was about $28 million more than any contract the Cavs could have offered.
"I know what really happened and that I'm a man of my word," Boozer said during the controversy. "And that's all that matters."
By most accounts, however, Boozer and Pelinka met with Gund and Paxson on June 30, 2004. They discussed Boozer's request to be released from his existing contract so he could sign a one-year, $5 million contract - the Cavs' mid-level salary cap exception.
In exchange for giving him a hefty raise - Boozer was scheduled to make the minimum salary of $695,000 - the Cavs believe they received assurances that he could eventually sign a six-year deal worth $40 million.
At that point, everyone seemed satisfied.
"I want to be in Cleveland. Good things are happening," Boozer told the Associated Press on July 1. "Now it's up to the Cavs and my agent to work things out. I hope they will."
Cleveland thought things had been worked out.
But two happenings quickly changed Boozer's relationship with the team.
No. 1, comparable free agents started receiving far more lucrative offers than the one that Cleveland had quietly offered to Boozer. For example, the Nets' Kenyon Martin eventually signed a maximum $93 million contract with Denver.
No. 2, Boozer met with Silas on July 5 and came away in a sour mood. Silas reportedly was harshly critical of Boozer's quest for a new contract. He also failed to assure Boozer, who averaged 15.5 points per game during the just-completed season, that he would start to play a bigger role in the Cavaliers' offense.
At that point, Boozer started looking around for another team. No longer contractually obligated to Cleveland, he was a free agent because the Cavs had allowed him to become one.
A few days later, Boozer signed a front-loaded offer sheet with the Jazz - one Cleveland could not match - and earned an unflattering nickname among Cav fans: