Don't count Tom Thibodeau among Carlos Boozer's detractors.
As his coach, Thibodeau would be prudent to not publicly criticize Boozer anyway, but the defensive-minded basketball lifer also understands that while Boozer may never be a great individual defender, he did contribute to the Bulls' league-best team defense last season.
"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."
As for Boozer's offensive production, which waned significantly during the playoffs, Thibodeau, unlike the vast majority of the team's fan base, is willing to give the power forward a mulligan after both of their first seasons in Chicago.
"I felt a big part of that criticism was unjust. He didn't have a great year, but when you look at what he did, he had a very good year and I expect him to be better this year because hopefully, he'll be healthy," he said. "But if you look at Carlos' career, you're looking at a guy who has performed at a high level and his team has won at a high level, so I'm expecting great things from him this year."
Boozer himself acknowledged his own disappointing play in the postseason in a wide-ranging interview with the Chicago Tribune this week. While the power forward knows some observers are skeptical he'll pick up his level of play, at least his coach -- who knows that Boozer is in Chicago for the long haul, as it's extremely unlikely the Bulls use the amnesty clause on him and his contract makes him virtually untradeable -- is in his corner.