Thibodeau: Boozer criticism unjust

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Thibodeau: Boozer criticism unjust

Don't count Tom Thibodeau among Carlos Boozer's detractors.

As his coach, Thibodeau would be prudent to not publicly criticize Boozer anyway, but the defensive-minded basketball lifer also understands that while Boozer may never be a great individual defender, he did contribute to the Bulls' league-best team defense last season.

"I've said this all along about Carlos: Carlos has been one of the best defensive rebounders in this league for a long time," Thibodeau said Thursday. "So when you evaluate our starters, defensively I thought overall, it was good. It can be better. We play a collective defense; he's part of it.

"I think the thing that set him back last year was the injury in training camp and then missing the two months, but I also think he had stretches where he played great for us and after reviewing the film, I'll say this," he continued. "That he was much better defensively than he was given credit for."

As for Boozer's offensive production, which waned significantly during the playoffs, Thibodeau, unlike the vast majority of the team's fan base, is willing to give the power forward a mulligan after both of their first seasons in Chicago.

"I felt a big part of that criticism was unjust. He didn't have a great year, but when you look at what he did, he had a very good year and I expect him to be better this year because hopefully, he'll be healthy," he said. "But if you look at Carlos' career, you're looking at a guy who has performed at a high level and his team has won at a high level, so I'm expecting great things from him this year."

Boozer himself acknowledged his own disappointing play in the postseason in a wide-ranging interview with the Chicago Tribune this week. While the power forward knows some observers are skeptical he'll pick up his level of play, at least his coach -- who knows that Boozer is in Chicago for the long haul, as it's extremely unlikely the Bulls use the amnesty clause on him and his contract makes him virtually untradeable -- is in his corner.

Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Toronto Raptors tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Can the Bulls get one on the Bucks? The Bulls are 0-3 against the Bucks so far this season and it hasn't been pretty. The Bucks have won the previous three meetings all by double digits and by an average of 19 points. The youth and athleticism of the Bucks has been a tough matchup for the Bulls so far.

2. Containing Giannis. There may be no stopping Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Bulls can at least try to contain him. Antetokounmpo is averaging 23 points and nearly nine rebounds per game. In three games against the Bulls this year he has averaged 29 points, 10 rebounds and 7.3 assists per contest. If the Bulls are to stay in the game, they will need to keep him to numbers lower than that.

3. Playoff implications. The Bulls playoff hopes are still alive with nine games remaining, but things are looking a bit bleak. The Bulls are a game and a half out of the eighth playoff spot, but only 3.5 games behind two teams tied for the No. 5 seed, the Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks. The Bucks have won three in a row to improve their position.

4. Mirotic on a roll. Streaky play is nothing new to Nikola Mirotic, but he's on a good run currently. After scoring a season-high 28 points on Wednesday against the Pistons, Mirotic followed that up with 15 points against the 76ers. Since missing three straight games earlier this month, Mirotic has scored in double figures in five of the last seven games and is averaging 15.6 points during that stretch.

5. Beginning of a tough stretch. The Bulls' playoff hopes could be made or broken in the next three games. After taking on the Bucks, which occupy a playoff spot, the Bulls host two more Eastern Conference playoff teams in Cleveland and Atlanta. The Bulls need to string some wins together and this is not an easy stretch to do so against.

- Check out the latest stats and standings to make sure you're ready for action

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- Latest on the Bulls: All of the most recent news and notes

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Former Bulls center Joakim Noah suspended 20 games for violating NBA's anti-drug policy

Former Bulls center Joakim Noah suspended 20 games for violating NBA's anti-drug policy

The NBA announced Saturday that it has suspended former Bulls and current Knicks center Joakim Noah for 20 games without pay for violating the league's anti-drug policy.

He tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement called selective androgen receptor modulator LGD-4033, which is prohibited under the current collective bargaining agreement but would not have been under the new CBA starting next year, according to ESPN's Marc Spears.

It was announced in February that Noah would miss the remainder of the season with a left knee injury. His suspension will carry over into the 2017-18 campaign with only 10 games left this year.

Noah averaged 5.0 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game in 46 games in his first of a four-year, $72 million contract with the Knicks.