A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the two-time All-Star forward agreed to a deal on Wednesday and is leaving the Utah Jazz after six seasons. The person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the contract doesn’t become official until Thursday, did not reveal the terms.
The jewel of this star-studded free-agent class, LeBron James, is still out there. While everyone awaits his announcement on Thursday night, the Bulls at least know they’re not coming away empty-handed after landing Boozer.
With about $30 million in salary cap room, the Bulls were looking to make a big splash in free agency after back-to-back first-round playoff exits. Adding Boozer strengthens their standing in the Eastern Conference — and maybe makes them more attractive to James, his former teammate.
Boozer averaged 19.5 points and 11.2 rebounds last season. His arrival gives the Bulls a formidable pair in the frontcourt with Joakim Noah, not to mention a good pick-and-roll partner for All-Star point guard Derrick Rose.
There is some irony to this. Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson’s brother, Jim, was Cleveland’s general manager when Boozer left the Cavaliers following the 2003-04 season.
Cleveland, which could have exercised a one-year option after Boozer’s second season, thought they had a six-year, $41 million agreement in place and let him hit the market. Boozer wound up accepting a six-year, $68 million dollar contract as a restricted free agent that Cleveland chose not to match.
Jim Paxson is now a Bulls’ consultant and scout.
Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor did not immediately return a voicemail seeking comment Wednesday.
With Boozer, the Bulls finally have a big man who will command double-teams — something they’ve craved for years — and can hit the jumper. They now have two double-double players, with Noah averaging 10.7 points and 11.0 rebounds last season, and can still add a perimeter player.
Boozer, meanwhile, has been limited by injuries in three of his six seasons with Utah and has clashed at times with management. But he played in 78 games the past season.
The U.S. Olympian would be one of the top prizes in free agency most summers, but this one has been anything but typical.
Teams spent years trying to create enough cap space to land the likes of James, Bosh and Wade, who came into the league seven years ago and structured their contracts to hit the market this summer — the last under the current collective bargaining agreement.
The free agent list included other stars such as Amare Stoudemire, who left Phoenix for the New York Knicks, along with Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki and Boston’s Paul Pierce. They wound up staying with their teams.
The Bulls, meanwhile, put themselves in position to be major players by allowing Ben Gordon to sign with Detroit a year ago and trading John Salmons during the season. That gave them enough room to offer a maximum contract, but they didn’t stop there.
They agreed to trade Kirk Hinrich and his $9 million salary along with the 17th pick to Washington on draft day, putting them about $30 million under the cap. That deal becomes official Thursday, when the Wizards can take on Hinrich’s salary for next season without having to send back something of similar financial value.