Though it was Derrick Rose who returned fresh from ACL surgery, and Luol Deng who is playing in a contract year, power forward Carlos Boozer has been the Bulls’ most consistent player through five games.
The seasoned veteran has averaged 18.3 points on nearly 59 percent shooting, both of which lead the team. His 8.3 rebounds have helped man the interior of the Bulls’ defense while Joakim Noah works his way back to full health from a lingering groin issue during the preseason.
For head coach Tom Thibodeau, Boozer’s hot start hasn’t come as a surprise. The Duke alum came into training camp lighter for the second straight season and is putting in time during practice, something Thibodeau has said is crucial to game performance.
“He’s really gotten off to a great start,” Thibodeau said before the Bulls’ contest against Utah. “He came into camp in great shape, the last two years he’s gotten lighter and you can count on him. He practices hard every day and he’s been very durable.”
Boozer’s consistent play – he’s grabbed at least seven rebounds in every game and has scored in double-figures in all but one – will be put to the test Friday night as he and the Bulls’ frontline square off against a young but talented group in Utah.
This past offseason the Jazz underwent an overhaul, allowing both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap to leave via free agency to open up space for 22-year-old Derrick Favors and 21-year-old Enes Kanter, and though the Jazz have yet to win a game in 2013, those two have hardly been the reasons why. The starting frontcourt has combined for 30 points and nearly 20 rebounds per game, and both have averaged more than 34 minutes per game in the early going.
Thibodeau referred to the frontcourt as “huge,” an accurate description for the 6-foot-11, 270 pound Kanter and the 6-foot-10, 250-pound Favors. While Boozer has played well through five games, Thibodeau knows it will be important to get him going in a variety of ways. Thibodeau also said the Bulls will look to attack the Jazz defense before they’re set in the halfcourt and try to rotate defenses when Utah retreats.
“Carlos can score a lot of different ways,” Thibodeau said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re finding him and he’s in rhythm. He’s very good in the pick and roll, very good posting up, very unselfish; feed him and cut, he’s gonna be open, so you can count on him every game.”
Thibodeau understands health risks of NBA gig
In the past two weeks NFL head coaches John Fox (Denver) and Gary Kubiak (Houston) have both been hospitalized for various health conditions, and Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford also was hospitalized after experiencing chest pain on Thursday, and won’t coach in the Bobcats’ game tonight.
For Thibodeau, a good friend of Clifford’s, health risks are something he understands and tries to keep until control while also maintaining the level of time and commitment necessary to keep the Bulls in the upper echelon of the NBA.
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“It’s a tough job. You have to take care of yourself. You feel for those guys, sometimes you get wrapped up in it and you have the tendency to grind, and you’re always grinding,” Thibodeau said, “and once the season starts you’re never off. So I think you have to be careful; you have to try to map it out as best you can, but it’s a tough job.”
While acting as head coach of an NBA team doesn’t allow Thibodeau to ever truly get away from the job, he said finding other outlets to take his mind off the job is important for a clean bill of health.
“You can leave the office but the job’s not going to leave you,” he said. “It’s always on your mind, so I think you have to find a couple things that can get your mind off it, and whether it’s the movies, reading a book, whatever it might be, I think that’s important.”