On Thursday night, Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer routinely connected on a series of perimeter jumpers in a blowout Bulls win over the Houston Rockets. The 11-year pro was left open by the Houston defense all night, resulting in an 18-point evening that he paired with seven rebounds and three assists. It was his highest scoring output in nearly a month, coming on the heels of a five-game stretch that saw him average just nine points per game.
That stretch coincided with a bit of national revelation over the play of Joakim Noah (whom some have trumpeted as either a First Team All-NBA-type, a fringe MVP candidate, and possibly the Defensive Player of the Year award), and Boozer’s reserve, Taj Gibson. Gibson is in many analysts’ lead as the Sixth Man of the Year, and though Gibson’s fourth quarter ubiquity over Boozer isn’t exactly new news, that hasn’t stopped us in the press from latching onto Boozer’s (completely understandable, and tactful) comments about coach Tom Thibodeau’s consistent decision-making in that regard.
Boozer was less charitable earlier in the week, when he stormed out of a Bulls practice facility after being told that the press wanted to speak to the longtime vet. From Joe Cowley at the Chicago Sun-Times:
Case in point: Asked to talk to awaiting reporters after a recent practice, Boozer declined and said loudly, “I don’t give a damn.’’
Following Thursday’s win, Boozer was more effusive and willing to talk. K.C. Johnson discussed as much in the Chicago Tribune:
This season has been one of his most personally challenging, with a reduced role and widespread speculation about the Bulls using the amnesty provision to discard him this offseason.
"I've been dealing with that all year, so the (amnesty) talk doesn't bother me," Boozer said. "I just block it out and try to hoop."
"It's not what I want but I haven't said anything," Boozer said. "I just keep playing my role and try to support my teammates. I'm doing everything I can to help my team win."
"People can say whatever they want," Boozer said matter-of-factly, not defensively. "They have their own opinions. That's out of my control. I'm just doing everything I can to help my team be ready for the playoffs. That's all I can do. If you're out there, you have an important role."
Though his ability to score from the power forward position came straight out of central casting in 2010, Carlos Boozer has acted as Chicago’s whipping post, even in the midst of the franchise’s most successful four-year run since the Michael Jordan era. He’s been (again, rightfully) mocked for his go-to shouts and yells that permeate the Carlos Boozer in-game experience whether he’s on mic or off (or, even if he doesn’t need to be mic’d up at all).
He is a top notch teammate that is willing to set good screens, set up the pass that leads to the assist, and sit down for fourth quarters that could use his offensive skill set, and yet he seems averse to defensive contact to a ridiculous degree – at one point on Thursday Boozer got out of the way of a slightly driving Jeremy Lin as if in-prime Karl Malone was barreling down the lane. Chicago badly needed another scorer to pair with Derrick Rose in the wake of seeing other stars head elsewhere in the summer of 2010, and yet Boozer’s five-year, $75 million contract has been derided in Chicago almost from the start.
And if the Bulls take the cheap way out and refuse to amnesty the final year of Boozer’s deal, keeping $16.8 million on the Bulls’ cap in opposition to paying Boozer to go away while paying someone else to take his place, Carlos may as well wear a black hat to each and every Chicago Bulls game in the 2014-15 season.
Not-giving-a-damn flare-ups aside, Boozer has been a consistent professional throughout his time in Chicago, and the embarrassment of being paid to go away could help Chicago score any number of championship-aiding prospects in the summer of 2014, assuming ownership wants to pay for a championship contender. It’s true that he’d likely receive more fourth quarter minutes had he just learned to slide over to help on defense earlier in his career, but he’s been more than understanding about the benching for nearly four full seasons, and it isn’t as if Chicago’s routinely top or second-ranked defense has suffered due to his presence.
This is why it was great to see Boozer – in the middle of Chicago’s fifth nationally televised win over the last month – getting to act like Carlos Boozer on Thursday night. Nailing cloud-poaching jumpers, yelling nonsensical things throughout, running away from Jeremy Lin as he drove to the rim, all Carlos Boozer Classics.
There’s part of you that’s going to miss Carlos Boozer when he’s gone. Admit it, Chicago.
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