COMMENTARY | Carlos Boozer has been slandered for many things over the course of his first two seasons with the Chicago Bulls. Poor defensive effort, lackadaisical rebounding and overall "soft" play are just a few of the unflattering accusations that had become synonymous with Boozer. Whether this was perception or reality, fair or unfair criticism, many Bulls fans started to feel as though the team acquired a lemon after signing the two-time All-Star in 2010.
Boozer frequently looked out of place on the court and seemed to always be a step behind on rotations. He became an obvious liability that opposing power forwards relentlessly attacked. Not just the superstars either. We're talking about instances such as Boozer being lit up by the likes of Tyler Hansbrough in the 2011 NBA playoffs. This is simply unacceptable for the starting big man on a team such as the Bulls, with championship aspirations. Naturally, Boozer became viewed as the weakest link and fans were ready to say "goodbye."
Perhaps the third season is the charm. Because this year, Boozer is averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds per contest. He recently scored a Bulls' career high of 36 points and ripped off a stretch of 11 double-doubles in 12 games, including 19 points and 20 rebounds against the Boston Celtics. He has even been named Eastern Conference Player of the Week and is in the running to make the All-Star team.
It's not just gaudy numbers that mark Boozer's improvement. There are also more subtle differences, such as an increase in free throw attempts-- which is an indicator of aggressiveness. And although Boozer will never be mistaken for a defensive stopper, he even looks to at least be trying on that end as well. A vital reason the Bulls have maintained a winning record while awaiting the return of Derrick Rose, Boozer has significantly stepped his game up. He looks to have gotten his "mojo" back.
As to how long this will last is anyone's guess. It is fair to wonder if Boozer's renaissance is here to stay, or simply a fluke. Time will tell. But as of right now, Boozer is finally performing like the player Bulls fans thought he would be. As much heat as he has taken for underperforming, he now deserves a little love. Better late than never, right?
Acamea Deadwiler is a Chicago-area native with several years experience covering the NBA, including the Chicago Bulls, for Examiner.com. She has also been featured in Bounce magazine, SLAM Online, and various other publications. Follow Acamea on Twitter @AcameaLD.
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