In his return to the lineup after missing the team’s last three contests with a strained left calf, Carlos Boozer scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds Thursday night in the Bulls’ 92-76 victory over the Nets at the United Center.
Boozer got off to a quick start, prompting Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau to play him the entire first quarter. While the power forward admitted that his conditioning needs to improve after missing an entire week since suffering the injury before last Thursday’s loss at Golden State, he was pleased with his effort.
“(My calf) felt great. ‘Freddy’ (Bulls’ head trainer Fred Tedeschi), ‘T-Nak’ (team assistant athletic trainer Jeff Tanaka) and Jen (director of athletic performance Jen Swanson) did a great job with me, with rehabbing and strengthening it,” Boozer explained. “(My conditioning is) coming back. It’ll come back by next week.
“I felt very comfortable out there. I think Thibs could see how comfortable I was in the first quarter, so he just stuck to his normal rotation,” he went on to say. “I just play off Joakim, our point-center, and just go from there.”
Thibodeau added: “(Boozer was) good, other than a little winded. But once he got his second wind, I thought he was very, very good. Actually, he was better than I thought he would be because he missed so much time, he wasn’t able to do anything but rehab. So I was very pleased and again, you look at what he did — 15 and 10 in 27 minutes, it’s excellent production — and it’s not only what he’s doing, but when he’s on the floor, it’s going to force matchups and that’s going to create other opportunities for us.”
The coach insisted that nothing needed to change in his power-forward platoon of Boozer and sixth man Taj Gibson, though Gibson has excelled when filling in for Boozer as a starter. Gibson had 16 points, five rebounds and two blocked shots against Brooklyn, his hometown team.
“Not really, because when you look at us in totality, for us to achieve the things that we want to achieve, we need Carlos and we need Carlos to play well. Carlos is a huge part of our team and so, the depth up front, we really have three starters and they all have to sacrifice for the team, and I think it’s one of our strengths. So Carlos is another guy we can throw the ball into, very good in the pick-and-roll and a very good rebounder, so that goes a long way. As I said, the rebounding was the difference and that’s also the value of Taj,” Thibodeau said.
“I know that Taj can play great as a starter and I know that he can play great coming off the bench, and it doesn’t take him five minutes to get going, get adjusted. As soon as you out him in, that motor’s running and he’s ready to roll. So I like that aspect. Taj can play short minutes. He can play long, consecutive minutes. He’s in great shape. He’s prepared himself well. You can’t say enough about all the things that he’s doing for us. He’s hitting his jump shot. He’s posting with strength. He’s commanding the double team. He’s hitting the open man. He’s guarding every position on the floor. He’s making great effort. He plays for the team. Did I leave anything out?”