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BOOZER'S SIGNING STRAINS TEAM USA

The second-most debated deal of the NBA's offseason -- behind the Shaq trade -- could have repercussions beyond the NBA, maybe on the U.S. Olympic team, where Carlos Boozer -- the former Cavalier -- and LeBron James -- who still plays for Cleveland -- are teammates trying to work their way through the awkward arrangement.

Boozer's sudden departure from Cleveland to Utah has opened up new discussion about the business side of sports.

"It's a hell of a blow," James said. "Anybody knows that. My feeling was that Booze was going to be around. But when he called me, I told him he's got to do what's best for his family."

And so, he did.

Boozer was to take a short leave from practice today to travel to Salt Lake City, where he will sign the six-year, $68 million contract the Jazz offered him earlier this month.

The Cavaliers claimed they did not exercise their option year on Boozer's contract because they thought he deserved more than the $700,000 he was to be paid. Cavs GM Jim Paxson says he did so only after he supposedly shook hands with Boozer on a free agent deal for $41 million over six years.

The Jazz then offered $27 million more, one the Cavs couldn't afford to match.

"There was no commitment, no handshake," Boozer insisted this week, stating correctly that it would have been illegal under the collective bargaining agreement. "I'm a man of my word, and the only commitment I gave was to Utah."

Among the fallout was the decision by SFX, the company that represents Boozer, to disassociate itself from the player. The agent who worked out the deal, Rob Pelinka, resigned.

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