On Monday morning, Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer was direct and honest when asked about his feelings surrounding the repeated fourth quarter benchings that Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has saddled him with over the last four seasons. Boozer, who is routinely replaced by reserve big man Taj Gibson regardless of score or situation.
“I think I'm very productive in the limited minutes that I am getting so I can do even more if I was out there more. But as long as we're winning, that's the main thing. But yeah, I do want to be out there in the fourth quarter. Let's make that clear."
On Monday night, with his Bulls far away in Sacramento, losing badly to the Kings in a game that featured a fine-worthy meltdown from Bulls All-Star center Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls general manager Gar Forman was asked about Boozer’s feelings. Via Pro Basketball Talk, here is what Forman told CSN Chicago:
"I'm disappointed that Carlos didn't keep that in-house," Forman said. "I think we've seen Tom does a terrific job managing guys' roles, managing their minutes. In that situation, Taj has played very, very well."
Seriously, this is needless criticism. Carlos Boozer shouldn’t be shamed for not keeping things “in-house,” especially after three and a half seasons of remaining mum on the issue.
What do you want Carlos Boozer to do, Mr. Forman? If he lies to the reporters and pretends not to care about sitting out fourth quarters, giving some “just as long as we win, I’m cool”-line, he’d be rightfully pilloried by both fans and media alike for his seeming indifference.
Carlos Boozer isn’t indifferent. He wants to play. He wants to compete. He wants to contribute late in games, win or lose. Who in their right mind would have a problem with this? How is this in any way disruptive? Tom Thibodeau and Carlos Boozer are adults that can handle this. Tom Thibodeau can – again, rightfully – point to Taj Gibson’s superb defense and improving offensive production and the minutes Boozer had already played in the first and third quarters (he usually stays on the court for the full duration of those periods) as legitimate reasons for keeping Boozer on the bench in the fourth quarter.
Boozer, to his credit, says he understands. From K.C. Johnson at the Chicago Tribune:
"Me and Thibs, we're both on the same page, man," he said. "We compete, we just want to win and I'm a competitor. Of course I want to be out there when the game is on the line. If you have a teammate that doesn't want to be out there, then he shouldn't be in the NBA.
"But Thibs understands. We've talked about it before and he wants to win. We want to win. It's only us. Nobody’s coming to save us this year. We’ve got to do it with what we’ve got in the locker room. We're all aware of that and we’ll be ready for the next one."
As a Bulls fan, do I wish Thibodeau could find some token minutes for Carlos Boozer down the stretch, if only to help alleviate some of the pressure that the 28th-ranked Bulls have on the scoring end of things? Of course. Do I think that Thibodeau, for all his genius on both ends, has failed to some extent to replicate the sort of flex options that made Carlos Boozer an All-Star in Utah? Yes.
Carlos Boozer is not the same player that he was in Utah, though, despite his attention to staying in shape and his good attitude with being treated as a third and fourth option at times. He is relatively short for his position, he is either incapable or unwilling to play sound defense, and he is nearly 12 years removed from an NBA draft that saw 34 picks’ worth of teams pass on him despite a stellar college career. On top of all this, Taj Gibson is having a superior year.
This is why nobody should have any issue with Thibodeau choosing Gibson down the stretch of games.
And because we’re all adults, here – and because this is America, dammit – nobody should have any issue with Carlos Boozer telling anyone who will listen that he wants to play as much basketball as he possibly can.
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