Boozer: We did a good job of finishing
SALT LAKE CITY—In his second game back in Utah, where he was a two-time All-Star for the Jazz, Carlos Boozer was booed during the player introductions and subsequently, every time he touched the ball Friday night.
Although he had a decent start to the contest, he got into early foul trouble and through three periods of play, he had scored eight points on 3-for-10 shooting and grabbed a lone rebound in just under 20 minutes of play, not to mention getting outplayed by former understudy Paul Millsap.
In the fourth quarter, however, things changed.
Aside from a technical foul he received for arguing a non-call on a drive to the basket—until the game’s stretch run, the Bulls seemingly couldn’t get a whistle—Boozer was phenomenal late in the contest, scoring 11 points in crunch time to lead the visitors to victory.
“You know, it’s weird coming back here because most of the people that were here when I was here aren’t here anymore. The only one that’s here is ‘Sap [Millsap]. Most of the staff is here, like [Jazz head trainer] Gary Briggs, [Jazz assistant trainer] Brian Zettler; Ty Corbin is coaching now,” Boozer said afterwards, taking the high road with members of the local media surrounding him in the visiting locker room of Energy Solutions Arena. “I got a chance to see Coach Sloan out there, which was great. He looks good, looks refreshed, had a good break from coaching, looks like he might be ready to come back. I had a good time in Salt Lake. Salt Lake was good to me when I was here.”
It must have taken a lot of restraint to stay classy after the abuse he took from Jazz fans, though the storybook ending to the night—including a brief meeting with Sloan, the former Bulls star, his coach in Utah and Hall of Famer in an arena hallway—but winning always helps. Still, if Boozer wasn’t willing to verbalize what the win meant, his teammates were willing to do it for him.
“It was a real big win for us. I think that we definitely got punched in the face yesterday and we responded well. This is a hard place to win a game and we were pretty tired. Carlos really played huge for us down the stretch. Him and Marco, their two-man game was really big for us down the stretch. To be in an environment like that, where everybody’s against you,” Joakim Noah, somebody not unfamiliar with being the target of an opposing arena’s ire, said. “I love that. I’m very proud of the way Carlos played tonight.”
Nate Robinson chimed in: “It’s big. Whenever you play for a team previously and now, you come back and you play, you always want to win, you always want to do well. Of course, the fans boo and all that, but that’s part of basketball, man. It’s awesome. For him to play like he did down the stretch for us, it gave us a great boost. He knocked down some great free throws, got a nice bucket. He was in attack mode and that’s the way we need Carlos to play.”
Expressing their pride in how Boozer, who has the reputation of being a shrinking violet in pressure situations, performed in crunch time, is one thing, but coming a night after the team’s worst loss in the Tom Thibodeau, not to mention reports about the power forward being discussed in a trade to Toronto, makes things even sweeter, regardless of whether he admits it or not. You see, as much criticism as Boozer takes from fans and media alike, one thing that can’t be questioned is his desire to win, from his college days at perennial power Duke to consistently being a postseason factor in Utah and in Chicago, where the Bulls have been extremely successful since his arrival and even on his worst days, he takes things in stride, as long as the team wins.
“We’ve got a lot of grinders in here. Joakim Noah’s a grinder, Luol Deng’s a grinder, Rip is a grinder, Nate’s a grinder, Jimmy Butler’s a grinder, Marco’s a grinder, Nazr’s a grinder, Taj is the grinder, I’m a grinder. We’ve got a team full of guys that grind. We play for each other, we’re all good dudes, we all want to win—we put that above everything else—and we’re all committed to each other. We play for each other,” he explained to the media members who used to cover him, before mentioning the elephant in the room. “At the end of the day, we’re short-handed every game. With him [Derrick Rose], our team goes like this [motions upward]—we’re leaps and bounds more talented than most teams—but without him, we’ve got to play extra hard to have a chance to win and we accept that. We play extra hard and we have a chance to win most nights, with the exception of last night.”