Sam: Much ado about Bulls' Boozer

445032.jpg

Sam: Much ado about Bulls' Boozer

Saturday, April 23, 2011
Posted: 12:25 p.m.
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

INDIANAPOLISThe only thing I care about is winning, Carlos Boozer explained. I dont care about the rest of it.

That should say it all. Not that hes apathetic, but despite the five-year, 76-million contract he signed in the offseason, it should now be obvious that the power forward simply isnt concerned about his production.

Actually, lets amend that assertion. Boozer would certainly like to play betterand so would his teammates, coaches and legion of Bulls fansbut hes come to understand that his play doesnt dictate the teams success.

Sure, hes bothered by the criticism. Who wouldnt be?

But in reality, the Pacers are devoting significant attention to Chicagos second-most established scorer and as long as he commands double teams and is a presence on the glass, Boozer is helping the Bulls win.

I liked the way he persevered. It was a tough game; foul trouble. I like the way he rebounded. He made the big shot late on the post move and things werent going his way, but he hung tough, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau after Thursdays Bulls win. Thats what you have to do in the playoffs. Theres a lot of things you have to get through. Theres adversity, sometimes calls arent going your way, sometimes youre in foul trouble, sometimes youre missing shots you normally make. You have to go through all that and then you still have to get things done in the end, and you have to have the belief you can get it done and he does.

I thought Carlos played very well. Rebounded the ball well, the ball went into the post, he had a big score late, he had three assists. He had the kick-out to Kyle, got us a wide-open three. Hes got to try to avoid foul trouble. Thats the thing thats taking him out of rhythm a little bit, but hes got to stay aggressive. Hes been in a lot of playoff games. He knows what he has to do, Thibodeau said Friday, a statement that probably has folks thinking he watched a different game. Its part of the responsibility when youre one of the best players on the team. That goes with the territory. Hes handled it extremely well. I thought he showed great poise in the fourth quarter. It wasnt going his way early, but he stayed the course, kept fighting. People collapse on him in the post. You have to, you do. You leave him single coverage, hes going to score.

The thing for Carlos is he just has to play. You guys worry about all that other stuff. Hes got to play to get his job done. Hes got to do what hes got to do for us, so if hes rebounding the ball, running the floor, getting deep post-ups, screening well, he doesnt have to score big points to play well. If theyre good shots and theyre his shots and hes missing them, thats part of the game. Hes still got to do all the other things to help the team win, so you have to have the ability to do well when youre not shooting well.

Thats par for the course for the predictable coach, who rarely criticizes his players publiclyand even then, hell only deliver a mild rebukebut Boozers teammates, although they could be biting their tongues, offered opinions in the same vein.

Carlos is fine, said Joakim Noah. Overall, Carlos is getting the ball where he wants it and its just a matter of time. Hes a very gifted player.

We expect big things from Carlos.

Echoed Derrick Rose: Hes going to find his way. Youve got to understand, theyre putting size on him and theyre doubling, so its going to be tough. Shots that he normally hits, he wasnt hitting Thursday, but rebounding, he was there. He just kept fighting.

Still, Boozer wasnt brought in to simply be a decoy. His defensive shortcomings would perhaps be more acceptable if he was putting up the 20-and-10 numbers expected of him, but that just hasnt been the case against a young, long and athletic Indiana frontcourt that smothered him for the better part of this first-round matchup.

In a physical series, foul trouble has been a convenient explanationit would be an excuse if the Bulls had dropped a game or twofor his offensive woes.

Tell me about it, Boozer responded when asked about the tight officiating. It throws your rhythm off a little bit, but for the most part, Ive been able to bounce back and do well, and were winning.

At the end of the day, all you can do is play. Youve got to be able to play through that kind of stuff. Sometimes the refs let you play, sometimes they call it tight, he continued. Its the playoffs. You cant sit down and worry about it.

You go on the road, things arent going to go easy for you. Youre not going to get the same calls you did at home; youve got to play through it.

Against the Pacers, as feisty as they may be, he gets a pass. As the postseason goes on, Boozer better heed his own advice and elevate his game or his season-long honeymoonthrough multiple injuries, seeming indifference on defense and inconsistent offensive productionmight just come to an end.

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.

Bulls: Could a knee injury have slowed Jimmy Butler in the fourth quarter against Celtics?

Bulls: Could a knee injury have slowed Jimmy Butler in the fourth quarter against Celtics?

As Jimmy Butler sat with his sweat-soaked jersey still attached to his body, Dwyane Wade yelled out that all the hot water was gone from the TD Garden showers, a fitting end to a miserable night.

Butler hadn't yet gone to the showers because electrodes were attached to his knees, but it was the left one that prevented him from being as aggressive as he should have been in the Bulls' 108-97 loss to the Celtics on Wednesday night.

Butler's 30-foot buzzer-beater to end the third quarter seemed to indicate a harbinger of things to come, giving the Bulls an 81-79 lead. A fourth-quarter explosion likely would have sent the Bulls back to Chicago with a 3-2 lead and a chance to clinch the series at home Friday night.

But he could only muster two shots and barely seemed to push off on his left foot—his lead foot, and it hampered what the Bulls could do late as he was their prime fourth-quarter performer.

He couldn't even go straight up on a jumper over the diminutive Isaiah Thomas without pump-faking, throwing off his rhythm. He wouldn't elaborate on the injury, although he said it happened during the second half of Game 4 on Sunday night when he collided with a Celtics player.

"I'm good. Everyone's a little nicked up; I'll be all right," Butler said in the locker room.

Going 6-for-15 overall, one would have thought Butler was conserving his energy, but he clearly didn't have his usual spunk. It was partly the reason Dwyane Wade took over more, with 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but having Butler around could have helped close a game that got away from them in a four-minute stretch where the Bulls lost their composure.

Wade has had to play through his share of injuries during his career, and although he wouldn't divulge whatever Butler was going through, it seemed as if they had a conversation about managing his body.

"We've talked about it. When you've had any limitations no matter what, at this time of year people are banged-up," Wade said. "It's expected. But we have to do a better job of putting him in different places on the basketball floor.

"I don't know exactly what he's going through or what he's feeling, but it's tough when you are, and you try to beat a guy from halfcourt to the rim, or three defenders. So we've got to a better job of finding areas for him to work without having to work so hard. That's on all of us."

Bulls Talk Podcast: Breaking down the Game 5 loss

bulls_celtics_podcast.jpg
USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Breaking down the Game 5 loss

Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill and Will Perdue analyze Game 5 between the Bulls and Celtics, how the Bulls can correct their mistakes for Friday night and whether Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade have enough left in the tank to win two straight against the top seed in the Eastern Conference.