In the vein of Brandon Rush claiming his Twitter handle was hacked, Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is defending beleaguered Bulls forward Carlos Boozer because, with four years and nearly $51 million left on his deal, what else is the reigning NBA Coach of the Year going to say?
Aggrey Sam points out as much in his feature with the Bulls coach, which includes this quote:
"I've said this all along about Carlos: Carlos has been one of the best defensive rebounders in this league for a long time," Thibodeau said Thursday. "So when you evaluate our starters, defensively I thought overall, it was good. It can be better. We play a collective defense; he's part of it.
"I think the thing that set him back last year was the injury in training camp and then missing the two months, but I also think he had stretches where he played great for us and after reviewing the film, I'll say this," he continued. "That he was much better defensively than he was given credit for."
Thibodeau isn't wrong. Boozer's defensive rebounding was a big part of Chicago's league-best defense, especially when Joakim Noah sat extended games due to injury and Chicago had to make do with Kurt Thomas up front. Thomas might be the best defender on the league's best defensive team, but asking him to defend like mad and still chase down caroms at his age was too much. This is where Boozer, as he has for years, stepped up.
And that's about the only time he stepped up. Because Boozer was one of the NBA's worst blow-by defenders last year, constantly avoiding contact (regardless of whether or not he was in foul trouble) in or outside of the lane when drivers made their way into the teeth of the defense. For a guy with just 18 blocks all season, Boozer's notorious act of jumping out of the way while attempting to get a hand in the vicinity of the opposing finisher drew Chicago fans' ire, time and time again.
Though he was the team's badly needed interior (ish) scorer and low post threat, Boozer's work around the basket left quite a bit to be desired. This was odd because of what often seemed to be a league-leading skill in Utah: Boozer's ability to finish with his left hand. After breaking his right wrist before training camp in 2010, that attribute was assumed to be needed more than ever, and yet the flip shots Boozer tossed in with the Jazz never seemed to materialize in Chicago. And his finishing work around the rim ("offensive foul, number five") was pretty poor.
There are caveats. For one, the Chicago offense went through Derrick Rose to a ridiculous degree last year, even considering Rose's poor offensive supporting cast. Boozer's pick and pop shot from 17 feet was more or less taken away from him partially because of Chicago's sets but also because Rose (though unselfish) is not comfortable as a pick and roll player in this league. More than ever, Boozer was asked not only to be a back-to-the-basket player, but an afterthought.
Part of this anger from Bulls fans is reflecting back on what we last saw from Boozer in the spring. Namely, his injury-addled time spent working through a turf toe injury in the playoffs. Turf toe is no joke, it turns the largest leapers into lepers, and made Boozer the subject of even more scorn from Bulls fans (and, judging by their on-court expressions, Bulls teammates) as he continually screamed over and over again while missing gimmies or picking up yet another offensive foul. A healthy Boozer should be different this year, Thibodeau claims.
On offense, at least. Because as he enters his 10th year in this league, there is no changing his defensive spots.