LOS ANGELES — After suffering a bizarre pregame injury before Thursday night’s loss at Golden State, Carlos Boozer’s status is “day to day,” according to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.
“Not sure yet. Still a little sore (Friday). So we’ll see,” the coach said before the team’s afternoon practice Saturday at UCLA. “We’ll just see where he is. The last time he wasn’t out long, but we’ll see.”
Boozer was “very limited” by his strained left calf in the session as the team prepared for Sunday afternoon’s game against the Lakers at the Staples Center. The injury occurred as Boozer was “jumping around” while warming up for what was a defeat at the hands of the Warriors, reaggravating an ailment from last month.
“Yeah, just one of those things,” Thibodeau said. “Things happen. They happen.”
Of course, Boozer’s tenure with the Bulls began with another freak accident, when he injured his hand prior to the 2010-11 season.
Meanwhile, recently-acquired reserve forward Toko Shengeila left the team after practice because of a death in the family and will miss Sunday’s game. Thibodeau didn’t know when he would return to action with the Bulls, but even with 10 healthy bodies, the coach quipped that the team has “more than enough.”
Their opponent Sunday has also been bitten by the injury bug, and while they will be without leading scorer and sixth man Nick Young, former league MVP Steve Nash is back in the Lakers’ lineup, joining mostly a collection of anonymous young players, role-playing veterans and various journeymen.
“It’s amazing his ability to make plays and decisions. He’s having a bad year at the free-throw line shooting 87 percent. His career has just been incredible. Unfortunately, he has fought the injuries this year. But anytime you have a guy like that, his ability to make others better goes a long way. When you can make the amount of threes that they’re making, you can offset guys being out. They have more than one guy who can do that. (Kendall) Marshall has played very well. (Steve) Blake can put it on the floor and make a play. Wesley Johnson has been very good. They’re tough,” Thibodeau said. “It’s interesting because you get a guy like Nash back, Blake. Marshall has been a great find for them. (Ryan) Kelly has gotten an opportunity and played very well. And then (Chris) Kaman is very active. So they’re playing very well right now. The Cleveland game, they made 18 threes. They can spread you out. They have more than one point guard on the floor. I don’t know if (Jodie) Meeks plays or not. But the guys they do have are very good.
“They’re going to spread you out. So you have to have the ability to make more than one effort. You have to challenge shots, finish your defense. And they’re tough inside. Because of the spread of the pick-and-roll, they’re more of a four-out, one-in team. You have to have great body position. You have to be active with your hands. We know we can’t have a steady diet of one thing. We have to change up our looks. That’s what we have to do. And then we have to score the ball.”
The Bulls beat the Lakers in their January matchup at the United Center on a buzzer-beating Taj Gibson layup in overtime. Sweeping the season series would not only put the Bulls back at the .500 mark but give them a 3-3 record on their six-game Western Conference road trip, of which the Lakers game is the finale and precedes two home games next week before the All-Star break.
“You’re always concerned about this time of year. Before the break, right now you’re looking at games 40-60. The All-Star break is in the middle of that. It’s easy to get distracted and lose some of your edge. Guys can go on the break early. You’re fighting all those things. The important thing is to stay locked in and don’t think about the second half or All-Star break. Just think about the Lakers. And that’s the challenge for everybody at this time. There’s still a long way to go. We obviously have to fight extremely hard to give ourselves a chance to win. We can never lose sight of how hard we have to play in order to give ourselves a chance to win when we’re shorthanded. Just take them one by one, don’t change, come in and have a great practice and get ready for the Lakers,” Thibodeau explained. “The important thing is to ask yourself if you’re making improvement. I like the way we have played on the road the last 10-12 games. We’ve had the right mindset. I look back at the games on this trip and I think we’ve done OK, not great. There’s a lot of room for improvement. The big challenge is to get ready for the next one.”