NEW YORK — This week’s Bernie Madoff Chutzpah Award goes to Carlos Boozer. In this epoch of bankruptcies and bailouts, unemployment and unsold tickets, he went out of his way recently to damage the reputation of the “Me” generation.

Having already scarlet-lettered his integrity by bending the Cavaliers over the hood of a car, Boozer announced to ESPN (spinelessly circumventing the team’s two beat writers) his decision to opt out of his Jazz contract ($12.66 million per year), which would add the title of unrestricted free agent to that of unmitigated schmuck.

“No matter what, I’m going to get a raise regardless,” Boozer said. “I am going to opt out, I don’t see why I wouldn’t. I think it’s a very good business decision for me and my family, but I’d also like to see what happens with the Jazz and stay here.”

How thoughtful to make those selfish intentions known while earning his keep duded out behind Utah’s bench (he’s been out for 20 straight games due to a strained quad tendon) and undergoing a series of MRIs. During that span the Jazz somehow have managed to tread (10-10 before Tuesday’s game) Great Salt water.

I’m hereby accepting donations for my two favorite holiday causes, Toys for Tots and Brains for Boozer.

* * * * *

Gerry Vaillancourt understands how privileged he is to be an eyewitness to Chris Paul’s ascension to the NBA’s playmaking throne. The Hornets’ accredited analyst calls him the “gate keeper” and marvels how he “burns inside in terms of excelling and winning.

“Last season’s lessons learned during the San Antonio series are forever engraved into his mind-set. Additionally, as great leaders do, he will speak the truth and will make demands of his teammates, and they better fall in line.

“At the same time, Paul is blessed with a sense of humor,” Vaillancourt continued. “One moment he will burn the ears of a mate who missed an assignment. Yet after the game they share grins.”

David West is often on the receiving end of Paul’s “verbal karate” but it cuts both ways; the All-Star forward, if need be, is quick to remind the franchise player what’s also expected of him.

The exchanges between them during a game could be read incorrectly by outsiders, Vaillancourt recognizes. However, their purpose is to make sure they keep each other fully amped. Both own “mental muscle,” he asserts.

“Purists would appreciate the Hornets’ vibes. The fuel lines remain full because of these two personalities that don’t hesitate to engage. That’s the secret to the team’s success. The locker room reverberates with the sounds of them praising each other or being pissed off.

“Or they’ll make gang up and demands on, say, (Tyson) Chandler, to get his ass to the glass and ramp up his rebounding numbers. In a humorous way, they’ll bomb him with rips for missing a couple games. ‘Around here, we play with some pain,’ they’ll loudly remind him. Good old-fashioned, healthy peer pressure.

“Chandler, of course, was upset he couldn’t play due to an injured neck, but their playful barbs set him at ease. It’s a special locker room.”

* * * * *

As pathetic as Friday was around here — Knicks vs. Minnesota and Nets vs. Bobcats — without question the league’s holiday gift to its dozens of loyal legions came Saturday night . . . Wizards 104, Blunder 95. Washington entered the game with a 4-23 record; Oklahoma City was at 3-27.

That’s the worst combined record of opponents — minimum 25 games played each — in NBA history. Put another way, there won’t be a D.C. gathering with this many incompetents on display until inauguration.

Peter Vecsey covers the NBAfor the New York Post.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.