Watch Carlos Boozer's 2023-24 NBA Preview: Predictions, Sleepers, MVP, ROY and More
In our exclusive interview, the former Bulls star looks ahead into the 2023-24 NBA season, discusses his career, former teammates, and reveals his awards and finals predictions.
Carlos’ Playing Days
You had an amazing college career at Duke, winning a title - you must look back fondly on those days?
I had so much fun on campus at Duke. Coach K had us ripping and running. I mean, I got to play with some great players, Shane Battier, Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy and the other guys. We somehow got a championship in our sophomore year, and that was a lot of fun.
On Coach K’s Influence
I think the mark of a really good coach is someone that the relationship lasts beyond the lines, right? Past the field, past the court. I've had a great relationship with Coach K since I was 17 years old. I talked to him, probably every other week or a couple of times a month.
One of the biggest lessons Coach K taught me very early when I got to campus at Duke was next play, right? And what does that mean? So, like, during the game, you may turn the ball over, let's say, and you're all down. You're like, “Oh, my God, I let my teammates down, let my coach down.” And Coach K was like, “Well, listen, we know you made a mistake. But instead of using that energy to relive it, and discourage yourself, use that energy to make a great play. Go get a rebound, we'll get a steal, maybe you get a basket to uplift your team and uplift your teammates.
How that translates in life is maybe you lose a job that you really wanted. Or maybe, you know, you get divorced and or you lose a relationship or something like that. But you got to pick yourself back up and move forward. I use that every day in my day-to-day life now. I learned that when I was 17 years old, from Coach K, when I first got the campus.
On his sons Cameron and Cayden following in his footsteps at Duke
Man, if it fits them, that would be amazing. Twenty years ago, that was the right choice for me. They got to make the right choice for them and I leave that decision up to them. They're doing a good job of getting the chance to catch a vibe with some of these coaches and saw the relationship there.
They're getting recruited by some of the best programs in the country. One of the things that's important as a parent is to let them decide, because they're going to be the ones waking up at six o'clock in the morning to go work out. They're going to be the one staying up real late to write that term paper.
You want to make sure they're excited about what they're stepping into. It's pretty cool being on this side of it though, as a dad now going through the recruiting process and seeing how my kids are handling that landscape. So very proud of them. We’ve got some more work to do.
On the transition from college to the NBA
One of the biggest adjustments is the talent level is so amazing in the NBA because every team has a roster full of guys that were badasses in college, right? Every roster has a team full of guys that were studs in high school, right? So, you get to the NBA… I remember my first game, I’ll never forget: I'm playing against Chris Webber, who's a Hall of Famer, right? Great, great player. Power four. And then he goes out of the game. I'm like, “Cool. Yes, a break. Right?” Then they bring in Keyon Clark, and this guy is 6’11, jumps out the gym, dunking everything. I'm like, Corliss Williamson, he was a star in college. Like, there was so much talent at the NBA level that I think that was the biggest adjustment.
Every moment that you're on the court, you're playing against somebody who was also a really good player, whether they're the starter or the backup. So the adjustment was the talent level was night and day. So many good players at the at the pro level. And then also the travel. Listen, we were on the road, it seems like more than we’re even at home. Like you have two games at home, three games on the road, three games at home, and two games on the road. It was like I felt like I always had a backpack. But to be honest, more than that, it was just an honor, man. I'm getting a chance to play in some of the best guys on the planet. Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki and all these great players I got a chance to play against and very grateful.
You were in your second year when LeBron was drafted by the Cavs - what do you remember most about that time and the frenzy around him beginning his NBA career?
I mean, just in a word: wow. Most high school players don't have that kind of imprint or that kind of impact on your team. When they get drafted. This guy was ready to take on the whole NBA, not just Cleveland, right? He got to our team, he was right away our best player. Terrific passer. I thought that was his best asset. His passing ability was like, you'd run a play, make a move and the ball was in your hand before you even knew he threw the ball. Like that's how good his vision was. And then he really could score whenever he wanted to. But he was so unselfish, we had to like force him to be more aggressive offensively. Because he was such a good passer, but he could really score the ball. And you look at what he's been able to do with his career. And what a great ambassador for our game.
Ultimate champion, one of the best players to ever live. He's got the scoring title, probably have the assists title. So he's probably- his name is going to be asked in every history, statistical category before he retires. But now just very impressed with how he handled himself his entire career. And he's still going. I mean, this guy is in such great shape. He's playing incredible minutes. He's going to score so many points, getting so many rebounds, leading his team to the playoffs every year. You know, as you play 1,2,3 more years, we'll see.
You had your most successful years in Utah, twice making the All Star game and the team was in the playoffs on multiple occasions - did you think at the time you had the team to win a title?
Yeah, I mean, I think once we drafted Deron Williams, the whole dynamic of our team just took off. I think he was the one piece that we were missing. We had AK 47, who was a stud and could do everything score rebounds, assists, defend. Mehmet Okur who actually is more like a player of today's game, who can step back and hit the three from the center position, a really good jump shooter. And obviously, myself was in there, I'm rocking and riding, getting rebounds, scoring the ball, dunking on people, you know, getting my team riled up. Then we had our leader, which was Jerry Sloan, our head coach, a Hall of Fame coach who had a terrific career, obviously, with John Stockton and Karl Malone. Kind of paved the way for us to be there. And then we drafted Deron, he was like our quarterback, man. That was like the one piece that we were missing. We had guys like Kyle Korver or Ronnie Brewer and Paul Millsap and bringing in different guys. And I just thought our team was very good. We had a lot of guys who were unselfish, moved the ball, played on defense, were very aggressive. And the two guys that we couldn't seem to get past were Tim Duncan, and his Spurs, and Kobe and his Lakers.
I remember one game; one series is tied to two. At halftime, we're up by like, 11. We're thinking “Man, we win this game, we go back to Utah. We barely lost games in Utah because of the altitude we play really well. Our fans are crazy, awesome environment. Kobe only has I mean, he's like 6 for 21. He's having a tough game. Yeah, he's like 12-13 points.” He comes out and has a 32-point third quarter. And the series is over. Right, there you go, that's just the Lakers. Then you go against the Spurs. And obviously they got Tony Parker who's one of the best point guards in the game. They got Tim Duncan who's one of the best power forwards ever, maybe the best power forward ever. And their third-best player, Manu Ginobili, comes off the bench for them, doesn't even start. So, it was unbelievable playing against that level of competition. Those dynasties trying to compete against them every year and get to the finals. But obviously, ultimately, we fell short. But those were two great, great teams.
You went from playing with one All-Star guard in Deron Williams to another in Derrick Rose when you went to Chicago...What was it like transitioning into playing with Rose and what were some of the differences?
Oh, they were they were both great and so different. They're both terrific point guards. D-Will was more of a pass-first point guard who loved to get the assist. You know, he could also score one on one, but he was more of a pass-first point guard. And D-Rose was just an assassin, man. He could score anytime he wanted to, jump over the seven-footers inside. He's probably- I think he is probably the most athletic point guard we've ever had in the NBA. I mean, literally 6’2, 6’3. Fast like Allen Iverson, jumped like Michael Jordan. He was a rare combination of speed and athleticism. Not just on the court but in the air. He would do all these dipsy-doo and he was spectacular. But they were two great, great point guards but a very different style of play.
There was some great characters in Chicago. Joakim Noah. Taj Gibson. Brian Scalabrine. What's the funniest behind-the-scenes story from your time with the Bulls?
We were like rockstars man, it was cool. Being in Chicago. Joachim Noah - he's like a hippie superstar basketball player. You know, like a throwback player. If you think about like Bill Walton in the 70s playing in early 2000s. That was Joachim Noah. Luol Deng was like an Iron Man. We had Scalabrine who was probably our 12th or 13th man on the team, but he was a great player. Taj Gibson really could start for most teams. He was that talented. We had Nate Robinson off the bench. He's like a football player. I call him the people's champ, but he's like 5’7, 5’8 and he won the dunk contest. We had a cast of characters, like you said on that team and had a lot of fun playing together. We thought we had a chance to really win a championship in Chicago. Unfortunately, D-Rose got hurt a couple of years in a row and kind of that kind of stopped our thrust but man, I played with some really, really good basketball players.
On the infamous hair spray photo
They still give me a ribbing for that. Obviously, as you guys can all tell I'm bald-headed. I've been bald for a long time. But there was this one moment when this barber tried to tell me that he could bring my hairline back. So, I'm like “Okay”. So, you know I grew my hair a little bit, he put some spray on it. And it was so dark. I'm like “this looks like shoe polish on my hair.” It took me like a week to wash it out and I tried like seven, eight times. Couldn't get it out. But yeah, my teammates still laugh at me about that.
On the time Prince rented his house
Yeah, true story. When I first got my contract from the Jazz, I bought this huge house in LA that was like 18,000 square feet. Huge, monster house and Prince had been there before, but I didn't know. I bought the house. My realtor keeps hitting me up about a guy that wants to rent my house out because I play for the Utah Jazz even though my house is in Bel Air in LA. She was like “you can really make really good money, right? Your house is just sitting there, nobody's even occupying it.” I said Okay. I'm open-minded to it. Right? So, here comes Prince, he rents my house out. I got hurt that year. So, I go to LA to go see a physical therapist. I'm calling Prince-like, “Hey, I'm going to stop by the house if you need something let me know. Didn't hear from him.
I go to the house and everything's changed. Like you go on the house, at the time my ex-wife had decorated the entire house with all these earth tones like creams or whatever. All that got put in the storage and it's all purple and black, everywhere. Hearts everywhere, pictures of himself everywhere. He turned my weight room into a nightclub with a disco ball DJ booth, massage tables in one room, hair salon with you know, the thing that girls used to dry their hair in another room. I had never seen this in a house before. Like he revamped my entire crib. To the point where I was about the sue him. But like, nobody really wants to sue Prince. Like, come on. It's Prince. But I couldn't get a hold of him. And he finally calls me when he's on tour in Asia. And he's like, “Booz, don't worry, man, I got you. Everything will look like I was never there. When you get the house back. Don't worry, I got you.
Let me just give you the abbreviated version. Prince rented my house out for a year at $95,000 a month, took everything out of the house, everything from the carpet to the forks, put it in storage. And he redecorated the entire house. Then took all his stuff out and put all my stuff back in the house before he moved out.
Winning Olympic Gold must be right up there with your most proud achievements - what do you remember most about that time in Beijing with what they labeled as The Redeem Team"?
Basketball wise at the top, certainly at the top. I mean, you got the best athletes on the planet, you know, competing for gold medals. And also, as an athlete, there's very few times you get a chance to represent your country. For me getting a chance to represent the United States of America was a huge honor. And obviously our team was loaded man it was fun to play with those guys, get coached by my head coach, Coach K again. For example, being in the Olympics, you get a chance to see some of the best athletes at what they do. I got to watch Michael Phelps be a dolphin in the pool. I got to watch Usain Bolt become the fastest man on the planet. I mean, it's a pretty cool experience, man.
The 2023-24 NBA Preview - Biggest Storylines
Damian Lillard's trade to the Bucks - do you think that makes them the automatic title favorite now?
Yeah, I love what they've done. I mean, Dame, I’ve been a huge fan of him for a long time. Him partnering up with Giannis up in Milwaukee, he's going make them a contender right away. Milwaukee was already a contender, they already won a championship two or three years ago. So now they have moved on from Jrue Holiday. And now they got Dame as well, they're definitely, to me the favorite in the Eastern Conference to get back to the finals.
How do you see Jokic and the Nuggets going in their title defense? Is Jokic the best player in the NBA in your mind?
I think it's going to be terrific. I mean, that team is young. They're primed to make a run two or three times in a row. I don't know if they're going to make any other moves. But what they got coming back is terrific. Jamal Murray's an outstanding point guard, will probably make the all-star team this year. Jokic is still maybe the best player in basketball on the planet with his skill set. So much fun to watch. Aaron Gordon can score, can defend, and do a little bit of everything it seems. They got their whole starting five back and they got a championship under their belt. They're definitely going to be a title contender again this year.
Chris Paul and the Warriors - is this the last roll of the dice for this great dynasty?
I think so. I mean, CP3 adds a different element for them. You know, he's a very good point guard, great assist player. Does a good job of getting everybody in the right spots. My only concern with Golden State is that: do they have enough size to contend with the Lakers, to contend with the Nuggets? But as far as the perimeter game, I like the perimeter players a lot.
With some fantastic additions in Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis, do you think the Boston Celtics are finally capable of taking that next step and winning the title?
It’s going to be a tall task in passing Milwaukee but they're certainly capable. I mean, you look at the roster. They're complete. You’ve got a championship point guard with Jrue Holiday, as you mentioned. You got one of the top five players in the league in Jason Tatum. Brown just signed the biggest contract in league history. He's a stud. And like you said, Porziņģis even though he's a center, he shoots threes like a guard. Then you got Brook Lopez and Booby Porter off the bench. They are a very complete team. I am looking forward to seeing what they do.
LeBron - is this is last season and can the Lakers make it work?
I think they can make a push. I think Rob Pelinka, the GM there's done a great job of putting talent around him. The kid Austin Reaves is a player, he's proven to be very good. Obviously, I think that Anthony Davis is the biggest key, right? How healthy is he? Because when he's healthy, he's one of the top 10 players on the planet. He can do everything: scoring inside, score outside, defend, block shots. He makes his free throws, and I think they've done a good job of surrounding LeBron with really good players. Hachimura is a very good power forward over there as well. I think he has a run at them this year, I still feel like he wants to play with his son Bronny at some point. So, we may still see him in the NBA after this year, but I think this year's team can make a run.
The hype around Victor Wembanyama - what do you see the French phenom doing in his rookie year?
Yeah, the hype is real. I mean the kid is 7’4 and has perimeter skills that reminds us of Kevin Durant. Like, I've never seen a guy his size. Don't get me wrong. I played against Yao Ming, but he was a post-up guy. This guy has got handles, can shoot the three off the dribble, he can catch a shoot. He's extremely athletic and does a great job of using his body. And one of the things that I'm excited to see in his development, right? He's with Gregg Popovich, one of the best NBA coaches that we've ever had in our league. He's also had Tim Duncan and David Robinson. He's coached those guys like Kawhi. I think he'll do a great job of introducing him into the NBA and bringing him along at the right pace so he can become a star in his own right. But the talent, his talent is unbelievable.
2023-24 NBA Season Future Picks and Predictions
NBA Rookie Player of the Year Pick and Prediction
I would say Victor Wembanyama (-143) is the leading favorite. I think Chet Holmgren because he missed his real rookie year last year. Chet will have a chance to in Oklahoma City, and the kid Scoot out there in Portland. He's got a shot too, but I would say Wembanyama is the favorite right now.
Who comes out of the NBA East Conference and Western Conference and who ends up winning it all?
Yeah, I would love to see Milwaukee (+150) versus Denver (+225). I love to see the Jokic versus The Greek Freak matchup that we haven't seen in the NBA final. I'd love to see Dame go up against Jamal Murray. And I'm going to be honest, I think Milwaukee comes out of that championship. I think it takes seven games. And I think I think Milwaukee wins that championship series. I mean, it's crazy.
Which team will be the biggest surprise of the season?
Think about what the Miami Heat did last year. They got all the way to the finals with a lot of undrafted players and second round picks. I think they could be a team that does something similar, I think, you know, a team that we don't talk about that we haven't really talked about is Cleveland. I think Cleveland (+1100) has a pretty solid team over there this year. Garland, Donovan Mitchell. They got size on the interior, they got some shooting around those guys. We don't talk that much about Cleveland since LeBron left. But they got some talent on the Cavaliers over there.
NBA MVP - who wins it?
I think it's a very close race between Jokic and the Greek Freak, but I'm going with Giannis (+600). I think Giannis has a huge breakout year this year. Dame coming in, take some pressure off him. Especially if Chris Middleton can be healthy this year. Giannis would have one of those years that we go back and remember like 2023-2024 was a special year. Giannis wins MVP. I think he's first team all-NBA. He wins a championship and becomes Finals MVP this year.
Who do you see winning the NBA Most Improved Player Award - does someone jump out at you?
You know who I think you end up getting it? Maybe a guy like Jordan Poole going to Washington. I think he'd be one of the top five guys going into this year. I like the kid Halliburton in Indiana. Very talented player. Yeah, I think Walker Kessler (+2800) has a chance to be most improved as well. I think defensively he's dynamic. He rebounds the ball very well. He’s going to play a lot of minutes this season for the Utah Jazz next to Laurie Markkanen and I think Kessler, that's my surprise pick for most improved player of the year.
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