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Boozer expects to play Friday against Minnesota

SALT LAKE CITY -- Carlos Boozer doesn't want to wait until
after the All-Star break to play his first game in nearly a year.

Boozer, who missed the first 49 games with a strained hamstring,
said he will play Friday night when the Utah Jazz visit the
Minnesota Timberwolves.

"I don't know how long I'll play. You've got to ask Coach that.
But I'll be in the game," Boozer said before practice Thursday.

Coach Jerry Sloan, who along with the Jazz training staff will
have the final say on Boozer's comeback, said it would depend on
the team shootaround Friday in Minneapolis.

After several setbacks with Boozer's rehabilitation since
training camp, the Jazz are being cautious.

"The most important thing is for him. Let's move on with this
and get going to what he really wants to be doing and hopefully has
all this behind him," Sloan said. "That's why I keep my fingers
crossed for him, because he's gone through a lot to get to this
point."

Boozer hasn't played since last Feb. 14, when he strained his
right foot during a game at Phoenix. Boozer said his foot was
healthy by the end of the season and was ready for training camp,
but he strained his left hamstring and missed the preseason.

He said he was close to returning a few times since the season
began, but "tweaked" the hamstring again and started over on his
rehabilitation.

Boozer returned to practice Wednesday and took part in a
4-minute scrimmage. He said Thursday the hamstring felt fine when
he woke up and he expected to be ready for the Timberwolves.

"I had a great workout yesterday," Boozer said. "Had a lot of
fun. We won the scrimmage and my leg felt great."

The injuries have prompted local skepticism of Boozer's
toughness and whether he's worth the six-year, $68 million contract
he signed in 2004. But when he was healthy, he led the Jazz in
scoring and rebounding and Sloan would like to see Boozer back at
forward soon.

The Jazz play Friday at Minnesota, Saturday at Houston and
Monday at the Lakers before getting the rest of the week off for
the All-Star game.

"I feel that he wants to get back so he can get back to playing
basketball -- the quicker the better -- and doesn't have to worry
about the All-Star break," Sloan said.

Boozer's position at forward has been taken over by Mehmet Okur,
who leads the Jazz in scoring and rebounding. But having both would
give Sloan a nice rotation, even if Boozer's playing time is
limited for a while.

With the injuries the Jazz have had this season, Sloan wasn't
making any early decisions on how to divvy up playing time when
Boozer is back.

"I've got to worry about the guys being healthy," Sloan said.
"When they're sitting on the bench and ready to play, I'll worry
about the minutes then."

Boozer and point guard Deron Williams, who sprained an ankle
before Monday's home game against Chicago, are listed as game-time
decisions for Friday.