Boozer optimistic about Bulls' early success

304422.jpg

Boozer optimistic about Bulls' early success

Friday, Nov. 19, 2010
Updated 11:33 a.m.
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

DALLASWith the third game of Chicagos seven-game November circus trip approaching Friday evening, the Bulls have had mixed results at 6-4 on the young season. One uniquely tuned-in observer, sidelined power forward Carlos Boozer, is optimistic about the teams progress.

Im not surprised. I know how hard these guys work, how hard we try to pay attention and get better every day. Im not surprised at how well weve done, said Boozer before Fridays team shootaround at the American Airlines Center. In my opinion, I thought that we could have a couple more wins under our belt. Im definitely impressed by my teammates, but Im not surprised. They work their butts off and theyre good.

Boozer, who is with the team throughout the arduous road trip, also discussed his own recovery from his broken right fifth metacarpal with reporters.

One day at a time. As long as it keeps improving, Ill be happy with that so, thats where Im going to leave it atI do a bunch of strengthening drills with some clay and then I do a couple of different exercises to get the muscles in between the fingers and then the hand to get stronger because my strength isnt there yet, explained Boozer, whose hard cast (It was on for four weeks, but it felt like forever, he quipped) was removed Nov. 2 and stitches were taken out Nov. 11. I ice it down, of course, so it doesnt flame up on me. And then I come out here and do dribbling, passing and shootingjust around the rim, like in the paint areaand ice it down again, let it keep healing.

Obviously where it came from, its a lot better than that. The splint is almost gone. Just try to get the pain out of it, he continued. It hadnt been moved in almost a month, so thats a reason there was a lot of pain there.

Boozer noted, in a silver-lining type of reasoning, that the injury hasnt affected his conditioning.

The great thing about my injury is Ive been able to run a lot and stay in shape as good as I can, so when I get back out there to practicehopefully very soon; maybe in a week, week and a half, Ill be able to practice sometime this week Im hopingI wont be too far behind, said the two-time All-Star power forward, who expects to have a specially-designed protective fitting for his right hand when the team arrives in Los Angeles this weekend. I know my body. Its a good mix. Im getting the doctors advice and he wants me to wait until the eight-week mark. Im trying to listen to him and at the same time, listen to my body. Im trying to wait to the eight-week mark to get out and practice and have full-contact practice, but Im starting to get a little anxious.

Often the first player on the court to encourage his teammates after timeouts, Boozer believes hell seamlessly fit into the Bulls lineup upon his return because of the chemistry hes developed with his new teammates, although his on-court time with them has been limited to the first week of training camp.

Itll be a little bit of an adjustment because we havent been out there together in a game, but itll be smooth. Itll be an easy transition. Its not going to be a tough transition, predicted Boozer. His role will be the same one when I signed on to come. Just being there, being a presence, bringing my leadership and help us win, whatever that means.

Boozer has also been a mentor of sorts to younger players on the squad, such as power forward understudy Taj Gibson, whos struggled through a miserable 1-for-16 shooting stretch over Chicagos past two games after starting out the season with remarkably high shooting numbers from the floor.

Every player goes through that. I just told him to hang in there and keep playing. I think every great player, every good player, everybody thats played basketball has had a slump at some point, so I told him to just keep his head up, dont keep your head down and just keep playing. The only way you get back on track is to keep fighting through moments like that, recounted Boozer. I really didnt know that much about Taj until I got here, to be honest. But when I got here, he was very talented, very skilled, way more athletic than I thoughthes super athleticgreat attitude and got a high motor, so Im looking forward to playing with him.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

No matter the metric or the occasion, the only thing definitive about the Bulls over the last two seasons has been their mystifying dominance over the Cleveland Cavaliers in head-to-head matchups.

That, and their fascinating streak of consecutive wins while playing at home on TNT, a streak that could end at 19 games Thursday night when the two teams with varying objectives clash at the United Center.

The Cavaliers are searching to find themselves, along with a light switch that will perhaps alert them to a lost defense over the past several weeks that has been worst in the league since the All-Star break.

The Bulls are searching for consistency, but since it's probably a little too late in the season for that, they'll settle for a playoff spot with eight games left.

They'll take two straight wins for the first time in a month, if they can get it.

They'll extend a goofy streak, if that’s what things will come down to.

"The big thing is obviously you have to execute very well against this Cleveland team," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "You have to go out there with great urgency, great energy. I anticipate them coming in and playing with a ton of energy tomorrow. We're going to have to match that. We're going to have to come out and play physical basketball."

Having a big break between games this late in the season is a rarity, as the Bulls have been off since Sunday evening, but it's just another weird detail in this weird Bulls experience.

An experience that the mild-mannered Hoiberg has to experience from his couch some nights, such as watching the Miami Heat furiously steal a game in Detroit at the buzzer with a Hasaan Whiteside tip-in to extend a lead over his team to a game, followed by another win Wednesday to put more distance between the two teams.

"I did, actually," said Hoiberg with a smirk when asked if he's scoreboard watching and paying attention to the teams ahead of the Bulls in the playoff race.

After being prompted to give his raw emotions when Whiteside's tip-in occurred, he slipped right back to Robo-Hoiberg — although one can imagine how animated he must've been while looking to catch a break from a previous contender for the eighth spot in the Pistons.

"It is what it is," Hoiberg said. "You have to go out and worry about yourselves at this time of year. It was a great finish for Miami, obviously, the way that game ended. But there's nothing you can do about that. You've got to worry about yourselves and hopefully go out and execute."

Going 6-1 against the Cavaliers in his two seasons as Bulls coach is probably the biggest feather in his cap, including three wins in all three meetings this go round.

The rhyme or reason doesn't seem explainable, but Nikola Mirotic seemed to give a few keys to the Bulls' success over LeBron James' Cavaliers: Sharing the ball, controlling the glass and getting back on defense.

"Against big teams, we play much better," Mirotic said. "I don't know why is the reason for that. We need to find a way to play against everybody like that. It's on us. We just have to prove it."

Usually, those tenets seem to work against most teams, not just the supremely talented champions who've just lost a grip on first place in the conference.

But their inconsistencies have left the Bulls here with a handful of games left before the April 12th finale.

A win over Cleveland could mean everything, or nothing at all, or something in between.

"Sure, we understand," Mirotic said. "We've been in a very similar situation last year. We didn’t make the playoffs so this year we want to try to make that push. I think we have a good schedule for the last. Very important game tomorrow, huge one. I think we have played very well against Cleveland until now. We have a chance. We need to get out there and play with energy."