Memo to Bulls fans: I suggest holding onto your socks so they don’t blow right off your feet. According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Carlos Boozer went through his first full-contact practice with the Bulls yesterday…
…and he might actually play against the Magic on Wednesday.
Don’t bother pinching yourself. You’re not dreaming. This is for real.
Said Boozer: “I felt I had a pretty good day of practice. My hand felt pretty good. There were a couple of times it got hit, which was good to see how that felt. It was a little sore. But my wrist is getting a lot stronger, which is important to me. When I first started shooting, it would get really fatigued really fast because it wasn’t used to following through.”
Boozer will make the final call about when he’ll finally suit up. But he wants to play. And according to Johnson, he really wants to play against the Magic, in particular because they gave the Bulls a 105-67 beatdown during the preseason. Apparently, that didn’t sit well with Boozer and the rest of the team.
Said Boozer: “We haven’t forgot.”
More of that pure defiance I’ve been talking about. I love it. But that brings us to the million dollar question: Is he ready to dive in head — and surgically repaired right hand — first?
Said Boozer: “I’ve been going through the plays since I got my cast off about four weeks ago. I come here early, go through the plays with coaches and some players. Now that I’ve had the handcuffs off, I’ve been going through a lot more. So I’m very comfortable with the offense.
“(Chemistry with Derrick Rose) will be there the moment we step out there together. I’ve been telling him that people are going to double-team ‘D’ because he’s dominating right now. As soon as they double-team him, you try to move to the open area and let him make a play. And then when you get the ball, you have to make the right play. I think it will be really easy. I’ve been playing pick-and-roll for a long time.”
If you’ve watched any of the Bulls’ games this season, you’ve probably noticed Boozer. He’s always been there, animated on the bench, cheering on his teammates and huddling with the team during timeouts. Not only has it kept him up-to-date with the daily goings on of the team…it’s also been helping build his chemistry with his ‘mates.
Said Joakim Noah: “It means a lot. It just shows what kind of guy he is. He didn’t have to. He was on the road trip with us, just jelling with the guys. He’s a very high character guy. I know he’s real excited about coming back. Just in his first practice back, he definitely lifted the energy.”
As to how he’ll affect Chicago’s oncourt chemistry, Noah said: “Well, you’ll just have to wait and see. Isn’t that the question that everybody’s dying to know.”
Well, we know Boozer’s return will mean fewer minutes for Deng, who’s logging nearly 40 MPG. We also know it’ll mean a return to the bench and maybe even some time off for Taj Gibson, who missed Monday’s practice with ongoing soreness in his right foot.
Beyond that, Boozer will add a variety of tangible skills to a team that’s already been playing pretty well.
Said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: “He’s a very established player. He gives us a quality low-post player, another pick-and-roll player. He’s a terrific rebounder. The thing I really like is he can really pass. That quality makes everybody better.
“It puts a lot of pressure on the defense, particularly with pick-and-roll. When you put (Rose and Boozer) in a pick-and-roll, you’re going to have to commit more than one player. Any time you get two on the ball, it makes easy offense for others. Carlos has great versatility.”
Of course, I’ve never been all that concerned about Boozer’s ability to pick up the offense. It’s the defense I’m, well, not worried about exactly. But I am arching my eyebrow in curiosity. The Bulls have been at their best this season whenever they’ve upped their defensive intensity. Boozer doesn’t have great length and can be a bit slow afoot. But then again, he’s never had a big man like Noah watching his back before.
And, frankly, I’m counting on Thibodeau sprinkling his magic defense dust on Boozer. Actually, forget the dusting. Just dump a bag full of that stuff on him, Thibs.
The bottom line is this: The Bulls have already been better than expected this season. They’ve busted the circus trip jinx. And now they’re adding a guy with a career Player Efficiency Rating of 20.8 to their lineup.
This is exciting.