Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010
By Aggrey Sam
WASHINGTONWhile the Bulls defense was the key to Wednesdays blue-collar win over the Wizardsand the teams turnover issues were the bane of head coach Tom Thibodeaus existencea dominant 30-point, 10-rebound, seven-assist effort by power forward Carlos Boozer was a significant reason Chicago triumphed in the sloppy affair.
Boozer was always expected to produce as a scorer and rebounder, but despite Thibodeaus insistence that the former All-Star was an excellent passer, it was not until Wednesday that his skills as a playmaker were truly on display. In fact, a week after it was learned that Joakim Noah would miss eight to 10 weeks of action following surgery on his right thumb, Boozerwho repeatedly tells reporters that Noahs diverse range of skills cant be replicatedhas shown that the Bulls will still be able to facilitate offense for the whole team by playing through the post.
If you cut and youre open, hes going to pass it to you without hesitation. Hes got great vision, so we think we can play through him quite a bit, which weve done, and we can generate a lot of high-quality shots from that, Thibodeau said Wednesday. As long as the balls getting into the paint first, whether its through his post-up or Derricks dribble penetration, thats how we want to play, inside-out.
Boozer was obviously a major scoring presence against Washington, using his power and smarts to fluster the Wizards inexperienced frontline. When Wizards head coach Flip Saunders sent double teams at him, Boozer was able to set up his teammates for easy opportunities.
They brought a lot of players at me. They double-teamed me a little bit more and I just tried to find an open guy. I turned the ball over a little bit trying to get it to him, but for the most part, I thought we did a good job of moving when they double-teamed me. I tried to do a good job of finding the open man, said Boozer. When we have Taj and Jo in the game, the pressures still going to be on me and D-Rose to score the ball. Thats our jobs out there, but even more now without Jo and Taj out there. Me and him are used to that. Were used to having the ball in our hands and having the pressure on us to put the ball in the basket. Its everybody else.
Now you see Kurt Thomas hitting wide-open jump shots. Ronnie Brewers getting more shots. Well draw attention to uswell get double teamsand our job is to make the right play. Thats why I had seven assists because they put two people on me and I just tried to find the right man that was open. Thats part of playing basketball.
Rose indicated that while his on-court chemistry with Boozer hasnt peaked yet, he enjoys the fact that the power forward takes some pressure off him as a playmaker.
Its great. Of course, my shot wasnt falling tonight. My legs were gone. But his passing, finding people on the open cut, doing things like that, it helped us out tonight, said Rose. Right now, were still feeling each other out. Certain plays, were still not there yet, but were going to get to the point where, in clutch situations like that, were already going to know what to do, so I cant wait until that moment.
Boozer, always quick to praise his teammates, knows that in Noahs absence, it will take an overall team effort to maintain Chicagos recent winning ways.
You see how good Kurt Thomas has been playing. Hes been playing his butt off, stepping up and taking that challenge. Taj Gibson will do the same thing when he gets over his concussion. Big Omer Asik right here next to me has been playing phenomenal. As time moves along, well figure out more and more ways to win. We cant replace Joakim Noah. Let me make that clear. But were trying to find ways to win without him.
Rose enjoys matchup with former backcourt mate
After the win, Derrick Rose discussed matching up with Kirk Hinrich, who started at point guard for the Wizards with No. 1 overall pick John Wall sidelined with a knee injury.
It was fun. It was going to be challenging, especially somebody thatI was his rookie a couple of years agoso just playing against him was bringing back memories, said Rose. But I wanted this win."
The battle between the pair was more even than perhaps some expected, with Hinrich going for 19 points and nine assists to Roses 25 and five, as the veteran attempted to attackalmost literally, Rose jokedon both ends.
You know Kirk is a hack? To let you all know, he is a hack, first of all, Rose quipped. It was great playing against him. If anything, it made me better.
Gibson ready to go, but agrees with Thibodeaus caution
Taj Gibson played less than a minute at the end of Wednesdays gameall at the end of the first half, spelling the foul-riddled Boozerdespite being cleared to play before the contest after working out with coaches both Wednesday afternoon and during pregame warm-ups. However, Gibson, who missed Tuesdays win over Philadelphia in the aftermath of suffering a concussion in Saturdays loss to the Clippers, wasnt disgruntled about his lack of playing time.
I felt capable, but its different when youre on the road. You need contact. I said the same thing to myself before the game. I was like, Im ready to go out and play, and help my team, Gibson told CSNChicago.com Wednesday. At the same time, a practice under my belt would be good because coming in this morning, doing the drills and running up and down, I was fatigued a little bit, trying to figure out how to keep myself motivated and keep my energy going.
Thibodeau discussed his reasoning for Gibsons scant action after the game.
That was a tricky one because he hasnt practiced and I think going against Fred Bulls trainer Fred Tedeschi is a little different than going against an NBA player. We needed him for the short period that he did go in, but I didnt feel comfortable with him being out of so many practices, to put him in. But if the need was there, I was going to put him in again and actually, I thought about it in the fourth quarter at the end, Thibodeau explained. I wanted to see him practice first, so hes comfortable, too. Normally, when a guy comes back from injury, not that he has to have a lot of practices, but I generally believe at least oneand hopefully you can have more than onebut at a minimum. But hes been out for a while.
Rookie Asiks comfort level gradually improving
Although he only played six minutes in Wednesdays win, backup center Omer Asik was active, scoring two points, grabbing four rebounds and blocking two shots. In fact, his productivity made it seem odd to observers when Thibodeau refused to substitute either Boozer or center Kurt Thomas when they each picked up their fifth foul in the fourth quarter. But you wont hear the soft-spoken Asik complaining.
I just try to do my job to help the team. When I get minutes, I just play hard. I just try to help the team to win the games, thats it, Asik, whose limitedbut understandable and ever-improvingEnglish makes him reluctant to talk to the media on the record, told CSNChicago.com.
In his last three gamesthe teams first three without NoahAsik is averaging 4.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per night, up from his rookie-year season averages of 2.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 0.7 blocks. Asik played heavy minutes in the preseason and even saw regular minutes during Boozers early-season absence, but has lost time in the rotation since the Alaskans return to the lineup this month.
The 24-year-old native of Turkey, selected in the same draft as Rose, believes that despite some ups and downshes often been a force on the boards and defensive end, but has struggled to finish strong on offense, with foul trouble and making free throwsin his debut campaign, hes constantly developing.
My development is going better than the beginning of the season, Asik told CSNChicago.com. Every game, I learn one more thing about basketball. Every game, Im getting better.
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's 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.