Is Boozer's solid stretch putting him in All-Star consideration?

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Is Boozer's solid stretch putting him in All-Star consideration?

BOSTON The guy has done this, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau insisted Wednesday night, in the bowels of Torontos Air Canada Centre, before injecting a dose of sarcasm into his response. There are tapes of what hes done.

Thibodeau was talking about Carlos Boozer, who scored 36 points, his highest point total in a Bulls uniform, to go along with 12 rebounds in the teams overtime road win. When a reporter briefly interrupted to indicate that Thibodeau meant Boozers current stretch was comparable to the much-maligned power forwards tenure in Utah, the coach rapidly replied, Hes done it for us, too.

That may be the case, but between various injuries, postseason struggles, the currently-sidelined Derrick Roses brilliance overshadowing all of his teammates, the widely-held perception that less offensively-gifted Bulls play with more passion on both ends of the floor and perhaps most significantly, his massive contract, Boozer has and will be an easy target.

But since the calendar year changed, Boozer has been recognized for his contributions. In the Bulls eight games in 2013, Boozer is averaging 24 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, something that stands out on a frequently scoring-deficient squad, as well as appearing more energized on the defensive end of the floor.

Just playing, man. Playing off my teammates, hooping, having fun, trying to win. Its that simple. Theres no new recipe to it, explained Boozer, who is loath to discuss his individual performance, even when hes played well and the Bulls win. I feel pretty confident.

I was just joking, he continued, when queried about his so-called New Years resolution, which he mentioned after the Bulls Jan. 2 win in Orlando, their first game of 2013. The biggest thing is the team is getting wins and how we finished the last two weeks of 2012, it wasnt our best basketball.

Weve still got a little room to improve. Were going to keep striving for perfection and keep getting better, Boozer, who scored 25 first-half points Wednesday, went on to say. It was a tough end of 2012 and I think, as a man, we all want to play much better in 2013 and get more wins, and so far, were doing pretty good in January.

While Boozer might downplay talk of his recent uptick, the rest of the Bulls are quick to credit him for being the teams catalyst as of late, as they are noticeably looking for him on the floor.

He can score a lot of different ways. I think right now, hes in a really good rhythm, Thibodeau said. His teammates are really searching him out.

Joakim Noah, who critics initially asserted wasnt a good match with Boozer, chemistry-wise, chimed in: 'Los is playing at a real, real high level right now. Weve just got to keep searching him out right now because hes been dominant for a while now. Hes playing with a lot of confidence and weve just got to keep giving him the ball.

Rip Hamilton, like Boozer, a former two-time All-Star, prior to arriving in Chicago, added: All day. I think the last month, hes been incredible. I think were doing a better job of getting him the ball where hes comfortable. Weve got a lot of new pieces, a lot of new players and Thibs is adjusting on the fly, trying to figure out what different guys roles are, so were learning each and every day. But hes been great the last month. Hes been playing extraordinary.

Fellow starting forward and Duke product Luol Deng observed: Boozers great. we need it. Hes just got to keep it up. Were going to keep looking for him or keep going to him. Hes playing well for us right now and when we get points in the paint like that, it makes the game a lot easier.

Boozers recent play is also drawing national attention. Thursday night, the starters for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game were announced on TNT and when the television analysts selected their reserve picks, Charles Barkley selected Boozer to his Eastern Conference team, over Noah, who was named to the teams of the other analysts: Kenny Smith, Shaquille ONeal and Chris Webber, who also selected Deng.

That was a very difficult decision for me, Barkley explained. Carlos Boozer has been balling lately. I couldnt get both of them, so I rewarded Boozer for having a terrific career.

If Boozer continues to play at his current level for the remainder of January and into early February, when the reserves will be selected, it may indeed pose a dilemma for the All-Star Game, as one would assume that the fourth-place Bulls will have at least one representative in Houston next month.

But with Boozer playing so well even as Deng, the teams leading scorer, having a better campaign than he did last season, when he made his first All-Star Game, and Noah, a fan favorite, enjoying a career-best season thus far the man that many Chicagoans love to hate could at least have an outside chance.

It sure sounds like Jimmy Butler regrets being labeled as the face of the Bulls franchise

It sure sounds like Jimmy Butler regrets being labeled as the face of the Bulls franchise

Jimmy Butler didn't come close to following in his trainer's footsteps, but Mr. G. Buckets Unplugged still proved enlightening.

Following a wild Thursday, Butler hopped on the phone Friday afternoon from Paris to chat with Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times about the deal that sent the former face of the Bulls to rejoin Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota.

Butler wanted to be labeled as the face of the franchise, but his comments seem to reflect the old adage "be careful what you wish for."

"It doesn't mean a damn thing. I guess being called the face of an organization isn't as good as I thought. We all see where being the so-called face of the Chicago Bulls got me. So let me be just a player for the Timberwolves, man. That's all I want to do. I just want to be winning games, do what I can for my respective organization and let them realize what I'm trying to do.

"Whatever they want to call me... face... I don't even want to get into that anymore. Whose team is it? All that means nothing. You know what I've learned? Face of the team, eventually, you're going to see the back of his head as he's leaving town, so no thanks."

Whoa.

Butler also spoke about trying to block out all the trade rumors while on vacation in France:

"I mean, I had so many people telling me what could possibly happen, but I just got to the point where I stopped paying attention to it. 

"It's crazy because it reminds you of what a business this is. You can't get mad at anybody. I'm not mad - I'm not. I just don't like the way some things were handled, but it's OK."

Butler doesn't have to be the sole face of the franchise in Minnesota on a team that has two of the top homegrown young stars in the game in Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

Bulls have emerged from a ball of confusion to parts unknown

Bulls have emerged from a ball of confusion to parts unknown

The big red button was pressed and Jimmy Butler was ejected from the Chicago Bulls’ present and future as they finally made the decision to rebuild after two years of resisting.

Trading Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the ability to draft Lauri Markkanen represents the Bulls committing to the draft lottery and fully going in on the Fred Hoiberg experience for the foreseeable future, as the prospect of trying to improve through shrewd moves in the East while also facing the likelihood of Butler commanding a $200 million contract wasn’t palatable to their pocketbook or their sensibilities.

On one hand, making a decision — any decision — can be applauded on some levels after years of their relationship with Butler being complicated at best. But the idea of rebuilding and the application of it are often two separate ideals, because the evaluation of a rebuild can often be as murky as the land the Bulls just left.

“What we’ve done tonight is set a direction,” Bulls Executive Vice President John Paxson said. “We’ve gone to the past where we make the playoffs, but not at the level we wanted to. You know in this league, success is not determined that way. We’ve decided to make the change and rebuild this roster.”

“We’re gonna remain patient and disciplined. The development of our young players is important. The coaching staff has done a phenomenal job. We’re gonna continue down that path. We’re not gonna throw huge money at people.”

The Bulls aren’t exclusive to this territory, the land in which they’ve inhibited for the last couple seasons, which makes the Butler trade about more than one thing.

Not equal parts but part basketball, part fiscal, part narrative and finally, masking some mistakes that have been made over the years but are not as easily rectified. Trading Butler seemed to be the easiest vessel used as an elixir to wash away missteps. Trading a star in Butler is also the easiest way to get heat off a coach or front office in today’s NBA, because few franchises like to make wholesale changes midstream or early in it.

Trading Butler — along with shipping their second-round pick in a box marked for the Bay Area — was also financial, considering many felt if he made it through the tumultuous evening that he would finish his career as a Bull, raking in a hefty sum of cash on the back end.

It’s because of these factors that the evaluation of this trade and subsequently, a painful rebuild, cannot be in a vacuum. (Note: No rebuild is painless, it’s the size of the migraine a team can endure that determines the type of aspirin necessary).

Just taking a look at the players the Bulls got back in the Butler trade illustrates the gray area they’ve now immersed themselves into. The Bulls fell in love with Dunn before he came to the NBA, and aren’t as bothered by him being a 23-year old second-year player who struggled mightily in his rookie year.

Zach LaVine is an explosive athlete who can put up 20 every night — when he’s on the floor. Recovering from an ACL injury is no given, as evidenced by a young phenom who once graced the United Center hardwood before his body betrayed him.

And Lauri Markkanen is a rookie with promise, but nobody can make any promises on what type of career he’ll have, or if he’ll fulfill that promise with this franchise in the requisite time.

“There’s always risk in anything,” Paxson said. “But here’s a guy that’s 22 years old and averages 20 a game (LaVine). He can score the basketball, he can run. He can shoot the basketball. He shot over 40 percent from three. That’s an area we’re deficient in. Markkanen shot over 40 from three in college. Again, it’s an area where we’re deficient. It’s trying to find the type of player that fits the way that we want to play going forward.”

[RELATED: Jimmy Butler bids emotional farewell to Chicago]

General Manager Gar Forman stated after the announcement of the trade that the Bulls would have to hit on their next few draft picks to stop this rebuild from being elongated, but even then there’s no guarantee.

The Sacramento Kings drafted a rookie of the year, then two future max contract players in the same year, followed by another player who’ll command close to max money very soon. But nobody remembers Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside and Isaiah Thomas leading the Kings from the wilderness and into glory, unless recent memory has been scrubbed away from everyone.

Inconsistencies in organizational structure combined with multiple coaching changes and an inability to develop the right young players kept the Kings on the dais of the draft lottery every April.

The Timberwolves, heck, nobody could say they missed when selecting LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns and getting Andrew Wiggins in a trade for Kevin Love. It’s because it takes more than the right draft picks, or in the Sacramento Kings’ case, the right infrastructure and environment, to foster an atmosphere of winning.

The Bulls were ready, despite their claims that this was a decision that came across their table right before the draft, because common sense has to be applied. No team makes knee-jerk, franchise-altering decisions that will have reverberations for years to come on the whim of a trade offer from Tom Thibodeau. This was likely decided when the Bulls went out with a whimper in the first-round after shocking the NBA world in the first two games against the Boston Celtics, when their fortunes changed on the trifle of Rajon Rondo’s broken wrist.

It was decided that Hoiberg, the man who endured chants calling for his firing in the second half of the decisive Game 6 loss, needed to have the right type of roster to be accurately judged as a successful hire or failure, and Butler couldn’t be part of those plans.

And just as Hoiberg has been dealt an uneven hand, Butler wasn’t given the type of roster that would accurately judge how he could flourish as a leader, max player and face of the franchise — and probably had less time to show one way or the other relative to his coach.

The longer Butler stayed, the more empowered he would become as his individual accomplishments would rack up because of the dedication he applied to game, the drive he had to place himself in the upper echelon of NBA players.

The better Butler got, the more pressure Hoiberg would be under to mix and match his roster and to foster a relationship with Butler he might’ve been ill-suited to fix. The better Butler got, the more pressure the front office would be under to maximize a prime it didn’t see coming, a prime they can’t truly figure when there’s an expiration date on given Butler’s unlikely rise to stardom.

So getting rid of Butler was the solution and the Bulls have now chosen their path, definitively and with confidence. Emerging from a ball of confusion to parts unknown, from one land of uncertainty to another.