The more experienced the player, the less the preseason means. Some of the Bulls veterans rolled their eyes and laughed when asked if they can’t wait for the regular season began before nodding a definitive “yes.” Still, Carlos Boozer looked impressive in putting together his best performance of the young season in Monday night’s win over the Milwaukee Bucks at the United Center.
Plugged in at power forward, Boozer played alongside Taj Gibson – who started in place of the injured Joakim Noah (groin) – and scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the win. It was Boozer’s most complete game of the six-game preseason, and Tom Thibodeau said he liked the way his power forward attacked the rim and shot with confidence in the first half.
“Thought he was very aggressive, which is good,” Thibodeau said of Boozer’s play. “And then, you know he stayed aggressive even though he had the fouls. The reaching fouls we’ve got to clean up, but I thought he was real aggressive.”
Boozer did finish with five personal fouls, but that same aggressiveness also helped him to two of the Bulls’ nine steals on the evening.
Boozer had averaged 9.2 points and 7.0 rebounds in 24 minutes thus far in the preseason, but he had done so while shooting just 43 percent from the field. He had only achieved the 50 percent mark from the field once in the preseason – when he made 7-of-12 shots in Brazil against the Grizzlies – so his efficiency – Boozer shot 8-of-16 – was a real positive.
And despite the Bulls’ starting lineup missing two of its regulars – Noah and Jimmy Butler (knee) – all five starters scored in double figures and Marquis Teague came off the bench to contribute 12 points and four assists in his 25 minutes.
It’s something Derrick Rose said has come about because the team has prepared well, practiced hard and worked with each other in practice to be able to succeed with different combinations of lineups at any given time.
“We’ve got our heads on right, we’re not looking past people, we’re coming out and competing every single night,” he said. “And I think you can see while we’re out there, we’re close as a team. All the guys are very professional.”
Bulls headed to Wichita for date with Thunder
The Bulls departed for Wichita, Kansas, this afternoon for a Wednesday tilt against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. They will be without Russell Westbrook, who is out indefinitely after undergoing knee surgery earlier in the preseason.
The game will be a special one for Bulls assistant Adrian Griffin, who grew up there before leaving to play collegiate ball at Seton Hall. Thibodeau joked that he may work hard to get ejected from the game so Griffin can coach in front of his hometown.
“That’s why we’re playing there,” Thibodeau said with a smile following the Bulls’ 105-84 win over the Bucks. “We’re looking forward to it. It’s a chance to go Wichita and obviously Oklahoma City’s a great team, so that’s good for us. It will be a good test.”
Derrick Rose joked that he’s not looking forward to playing against MVP runner-up Kevin Durant, but that Wednesday’s matchup should be a good barometer of where the 6-0 Bulls are as a group.
“Every team that we play, of course with the talent that (Durant) has and how good he is and how good that team is, it’s going to be a challenge for us but I think we have to take that challenge. They’ve been playing great basketball, especially with Russ (Westbrook) being out.”
Gibson sees potential in rookies
The Bulls have tried to allow playing time for rookies in the preseason, and with injuries to three key players that time on the court has been amped up for the younger players.
Marquis Teague played 25 minutes while rookies Tony Snell (24 minutes) and Erik Murphy (27 minutes) all saw an extended run in the Bulls’ preseason opener. That, Taj Gibson said, has been important for both their individual progression as well as the team’s.
“We’ve got Erik still trying to figure out the keys, but he’s done a great job, trying to let him shoot the ball a little bit better as far as beyond the arc. We’ve got Marquis playing with a lot of confidence, Tony Snell – we’re just trying to get these guys going. It’s really tough for a rookie, second-year player to get going, especially in the preseason.”
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Murphy struggled, going 1-for-8 from the field to finish with three points, but he also added six rebounds. Snell hit a pair of 3-pointers in the win and looked solid on defense, blocking a shot and corralling two rebounds.
“Just be ready and come in and try to do whatever I can to help the team win,” Murphy said before the game. “It’s playing defense, rebounding, taking open shots; whatever I can do to try and help the team win, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Added Snell before the game: “I’ve just got to stay ready, you never know what’s gonna happen. I’m just trying to stay ready and whatever opportunity comes I’ll try to take full advantage of it.”
With the Bulls still battling through injuries, Snell and Murphy should both see ample minutes in the Bulls’ final two preseason games against the Thunder and Nuggets.