The training-camp theme of championship expectations, whether stated bluntly by Derrick Rose or more vaguely by Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau continues to echo throughout the Berto Center, where Carlos Boozer was the latest member of the organization to imply the team’s singular goal.
“Well, you’ve got to put the work in for the games, man. You guys know how it is. To us, we’ve been a contender every year. We’ve just had some injuries that halted us when the moment really counted in the playoffs, but we feel like we’re a contender, but we’ve got to put the work in. There are probably 30 teams that feel like they’re a contender right now, and we have to do it every practice, get better every practice, prove it every game by getting wins, get the highest seed we can, and then go from there,” Boozer said after Monday’s lone practice, now that the team’s two-a-day sessions have concluded. “It’s hard to put in one word, but just excitement. There’s a lot of promise, a lot of expectations, but we’re up for those challenges. We put that pressure on ourselves every year. This year, we happen to be healthy so it’s an exciting time in Chicago.”
Boozer came into camp in tremendous shape, cutting a trim figure as the much-maligned power forward enters a season that many observers suspect could be his last in Chicago.
“Yeah, I feel great. Everything. I feel lighter, quicker, reaction time is better, just feel great,” he said. “I used to play all summer. That was before soreness came into play with my body, so I used to play all summer. Now I usually only play the last couple months of the summer. I get like 10 to 15 runs in. Before that, I’m just running the beach. I like to cycle a lot, so doing that a lot, and still strength-training and working on my basketball skills. The biggest thing I’ve changed is playing pick-up in the summer."
Duke reunion for Boozer, Dunleavy
Boozer’s college teammate, Mike Dunleavy Jr., is the Bulls’ most prominent newcomer. Boozer and Dunleavy won the 2001 NCAA national championship—alongside former Bulls point guards Jay Williams and Chris Duhon, with current free agent training-camp hopeful Dahntay Jones joining the group the following season—together at Duke, where All-Star small forward Luol Deng also played.
“Mike is a hell of a player. He fits great right into our system. Great pick-and-roll player, obviously a great shooter, has a huge basketball IQ. He’s been around the NBA with his dad for his whole life pretty much, so he’s going to be a huge boost for us off the bench,” Boozer said. “We’ve been competing against each other for so long, and now in our 12th season, we finally get to play together. We also have Dahntay in our camp, too. It’s been fun. We’ve been talking about some old school stuff, talking with the Kentucky guys—you know we have old school Nazr and new school Marquis—talking about who has the most pros. I don’t even know if it’s our guys or Connecticut, but we know we’re up there.”