MILWAUKEEFollowing his 22-point, 19-rebound performance in the Bulls 93-86 win over the Bucks at the Bradley Center, Carlos Boozer didnt shy away from the question. Asked about playing in the fourth quarter Saturday night, Boozer sent a direct message about his feelings on the issue.
You never know how long youre going to be out there or if youre going to go back in the fourth quarter. Me and Rip talked about it before the game, just to be aggressive while youre out here, see what happens. Thats kind of been our mentality the last few games and it was going great tonight, he said. It was great. We want to be out there every fourth quarter, but thats Thibs decision.
This is his show. He runs it. He puts out there who he wants out there and we just go with the flow.
Since the much-maligned power forwards arrival in Chicago, going back to the 2011 playoffs, in which his backup, Taj Gibson finished games for him, seeing Boozer on the bench in crunch time has been a semi-regular occurrence. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus mantra about the group that functions best may pass muster when his team is cruising through the regular season and Derrick Rose is healthy, but now that the Bulls are not considered an NBA juggernautthough they did snap a three-game losing skid by beating their Central Division rival, the fact that they had the streak at all is a mild shocker itselfsitting two of the squads veterans and most talented offensive players has raised some eyebrows.
While Boozer finally opened his mouth about the pattern, Hamilton continues to stay mum. Whether or not he encouraged his teammate to speak for him or not, the shooting guard remained diplomatic after the win, in which he scored 22 points of his own.
I missed so many easy shots, but the thing about it, though, I felt comfortable because I was able to get to the spots that I wanted to get to. Thibs just rode me and the guys did a good job of trying to find me when I was out on the floor, he said. Just understanding time and situation. I thought that tonight, we really understood time and possession. We got away from the quick shots in the fourth quarter and we were able to get the ball in the paint.
Boozer chimed in, more pointedly: Same Rip Ive seen my whole career, watching him play in Detroit, just aggressive. Hes a hard cover, man. Thirty-five years old, still one of the fastest guys coming off picks. You guys see him every day. Made all his free throws. Had a tough shooting night, but he was so aggressive, they had to foul him. Then, he started making plays for everybody else.
As for the man making the decisions on the sidelines, Thibodeau praised both the play of both veterans afterwards, though hes gone to Gibson in Boozers stead and recently, has used second-year swingman Jimmy Butler in place of Hamilton.
I thought Boozer was terrific. He played hard. I thought he made great effort on the board and the rebounding was a huge key, the coach said of Boozer, before moving on to Hamiltons night. I thought Hamilton played a good game. He got it in the post. He had a good balance, ran the floor hard. I thought he made a great effort in defensive transition. I thought he did a really good job.
But when asked about his fourth-quarter lineups this season, Thibodeau essentially dismissed the question, as he did before the game and has done since the issue was first raised.
Thats the way it is, he said. All fourth quarters are going to be tough. Thats the NBA.
Perhaps Joakim Noah stated it best: Like Ive said for a long time, its a dictatorship out here.
Noah refused to outright criticize Thibodeau, but admitted that of course players would love to know if theyre going to be in the lineup to close game, particularly veterans who have been in the position before.
At the end of the day, thats not my decision. Sometimes I wish I could coach. No more player-coaches? But I always tell Thibs how I feel. Sometimes he listens to me, sometimes he doesnt, the center explained. "Sometimes he gives me that look like, Are you expletive kidding me? Are you really telling me what to do right now? Thibs is pretty stubborn and at the end of the day, hes a coach.
Noah knows both sides of the coin, having been subbed out of games late the past two seasons, in favor of his understudy, the departed Omer Asik, before joining teammate Luol Deng as one of the NBAs minutes-per-game leaders this season, a tribute to his hard work over the summer and Thibodeaus growing trust in him, as well as necessity. However, maybe remembering what it used to be like for him, while Noah refused to further elaborate on his view of Thibodeaus late-game substitution patterns, he concluded with an opinion that Boozer and Hamilton surely share.
Put it this way, he said. I want to be in there all the time.