CLEVELAND — Of all of the transactions in Cleveland Cavaliers' history, one of the most memorable is the 2004 departure of Carlos Boozer.
As legend has it, the promising power forward "lied to a blind man," giving then-Cavs owner Gordon Gund his word that he would re-sign with the team if let out of his rookie contract -- only to turn around and sign a bigger deal with the Utah Jazz. The move made Boozer a villain in Cleveland -- where he was routinely booed for the remainder of his 13-year NBA career -- and left LeBron James without his running mate after the duo displayed instant chemistry during James' rookie season.
Despite the criticism he received for the move, the two-time All-Star has rarely discussed it publicly -- at least not since he said he took the best offer possible in 2004. That changed this week, when he was asked about his controversial exit from the Cavs during an interview on "The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz."
"The reality of it was I was a second-round pick, so I had a two-year contract with an option for a third year and they had discussed taking my option away so they could re-sign me," Boozer said. "The only bad thing about that was it would be tampering and [the Cavs] were going to be under investigation. So when we went through the process, they took away my option, they wanted to give me a new contract.
"The league knows everything. So when they took away my third-year option, they were going to offer me a deal around $40 million. But the league was also getting indication that there was four other teams that were offering me 70 [million] plus. So if I would have re-signed, they would have immediately known it was tampering."
The Duke product went on to compare the situation to when the Minnesota Timberwolves were stripped of five first-round picks and fined $3.5 million following their improper negotiations with power forward Joe Smith in 2000.
"So if I had [re-signed with Cleveland], me and my team had gotten wind that there would be an investigation, so I had to move on," Boozer said. "That's what the fans didn't know. I had to move on, otherwise it would have crippled the Cavaliers for a couple years."
How uncomfortable was it for the then-22-year-old Boozer to go through at the time?
"At the time it was uncomfortable," he admitted, before adding, "the extra money the Jazz were giving me made it pretty cool. It ended up working just fine from that perspective.
"Any time there's stuff being said about you and not everybody knows all the details, and I couldn't really speak about it at the time, it is difficult. We got through it. Everything you go through is a lesson and there's something to be learned and something to grow from."