Getting Carlos Boozer’s back

During Chicago’s first round playoff series against the Pacers, Carlos Boozer was getting shelled by Bulls fans who were unhappy with his relative lack of output. Had it been a 1930s creature feature, Boozington would have been hiding at the top of a windmill surrounded by a mob of pitchfork-wielding villagers.

The reaction was strong and disproportionate. Boozer was being portrayed like some kind of cartoon bandit sneaking offwith bags of money in the dark of night. Sure, he struggling to score, but his rebounding numbers were strong. And it wasn’t like he set fire to the locker room or slipped laxatives into Derrick Rose’s breakfast cereal.

Booz was hurt and slumping…but he was trying.

Tom Thibodeau’s response: “He’s a lightning rod. The guy played 26 minutes (in Game 1 of the Pacers series) and he gets blamed for everything. Carlos is a terrific player. He started off Game 1 very aggressively. He got into some foul trouble and then he was limited. He has to stay aggressive. But he wasn’t responsible for all our defense (in Game 1); I can assure you that.”

Thibodeau’s comments were generally disregarded. The assault continued. Even former Bull Horace Grant jumped on the dogpileand said Thibs should bench Boozer. It got so bad during the Hawks series that Joakim Noah publically asked fans to stop booing his teammate:

“Carlos is in a situation where he’s hurt and he’s giving us everything he can. I’ve been in the position where I’ve been booed before in the United Center and I know to get to where we want to get to, we need Carlos. We should be supporting him. I don’t understand that.

“Not a lot of people know what that feels like to be a worker, work hard and be in position where you get booed by your home crowd. Booz is an emotional player. The crowd has a lot to do with his game. He enjoys that. I enjoy playing to the crowd. The crowd has a big impact on what we do. We realize that. I just want to show some support for my teammate and what he’s going through right now, because I don’t think it’s fair.”

Boozer finally emerged from his slump with a 23-point performance (on 10-for-16 shooting) as the Bulls eliminated the Hawks in Game 6 in Atlanta. Then Booz gave it up for his teammates:

“I love my teammates, man. We’ve been defending each other all season, no matter who was going through what throughout the course of the year. We’ve always had each other’s back. We’re all like a family. A lot of people say that, but we really are. It felt great to have everybody on my side that’s in this locker room and that’s how we’ve been all season. And we don’t listen to what you guys write about, talk about, we listen to each other. And we focus on what we talk about.

“When you have your teammates out there with you, you know the guy behind you has your back, he knows that you have his back. That’s what a team is supposed to do.”

It was subsequently revealed that, last summer, Boozer wanted to come to Chicago and let the Bulls know it. According to Noah, Boozer’s attitude was in direct opposition to that of Chris Bosh.

Said Noah: “Hewas a nice guy and all. But Bosh was more into, ‘Well it depends on what this guy does, what that guy does.’ Booz knew this was where he wanted to be. I liked that.”

Added Boozer: “I just told Jo that if I leave Utah, this is where I want to come. I was like, ‘You and I could lock down the middle. D-Rose’s potential is through the roof. And Luol (Deng) is a versatile as anybody.’ … We can ride out and do some good things.”

As it happens, they did ride out and have done some good things.

With the potential to do some great things.

This is why, despite my occasional doubts, I’m behind Boozer 100 percent. He arrived in Chicago with the reputation of being a 20-10 guy. Because of that, fans start to get twitchy when he doesn’t score 20 points and grab 10 rebounds. But here’s the thing: The Jazz needed 20-10 from Boozer and they struggled to win when he didn’t give it to them.

This Bulls team isn’t built like that. They need Carlos to be an inside threat and contribute to winning however he can. Sometimes that means going for 20 points, or hauling down 10 rebounds, or cheering on Taj Gibson from the bench. Which he has done and will continue to do, by the way.

I know about Boozer’s spotty history — specifically his questionable departure from Cleveland— but he has been an ideal teammate this season. He accepts his role and supports his teammates. Many guys with Boozer’s pedigree and large contract would probably sulk about losing fourth quarter minutes to their backup. But when Taj Gibson throws down a monster dunk, Booz is right there, jumping up off the bench to slap palms.

People need to understand that this Bulls team is exceptionally close. That, as much as anything else, has contributed to the winning environment that has been created. I understand that stats are important. And, with the growing use of advanced metrics, fans and experts get riled up when they aren’t seeing the numbers they expect.

But nobody on this team cares about stats. They care about each other and they care about winning. That’s it. Every single player on the Bulls has Boozer’s back. That’s important. So is the fact that Boozer wants to be here and is committed to the team over everything else. Even his own numbers and pride. It makes him the perfect fit for this situation even if he isn’t averaging a 20-10.

So, even if he struggles again, I’m going to have Boozer’s back as long as his team believes in him.


25 Responses to Getting Carlos Boozer’s back

    Jake in Minnie May 17, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

    /sage nod of agreement

    No problems with Boozer.

    Rafael May 17, 2011 at 6:23 pm #

    Damn you , Matt. you just made me like Boozer again.

  3. Anonymous May 17, 2011 at 6:52 pm #

    in the red eye, post game 1, it said that Luol Deng, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Carlos Boozer went to the underground to celebrate Keith Bogan’s birthday.

    thats the starting 5. hanging out, outside of work.

    jkl May 17, 2011 at 7:16 pm #

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  5. Tae May 17, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

    Boozer’s most effective at 25-30 minutes max. His scoring returns diminishes heavily, especially against the Heat when Taj isn’t in to cover on pick-and-rolls.

    Tony C. May 17, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

    His attitude does appear to be very good, and I agree that some of the criticisms were over the top. He does have atrocious moments defensively, though I will say that he has been rotating more aggressively as the playoffs have unfolded.

    inkybreath May 17, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

    Good stuff. I love Boozer’s attitude and team support. He helps keep the energy flowing, without a doubt.

    Listen, he has never been described as a defensive guy, so he is not busting anyone’s reasonable expectations by getting beat off the dribble here and there.

    He is a passionate and prideful rebounder and looks to score when given the opportunity.

    The only problem I had with him this year is I thought he was trying to play like he was 100% when he was still a bit injured and I thought he should have adjusted his game slightly (see: the two or three super dunk attempts that should not have been late in the year)…

    The truth is that he has the best touch around the basket, next to DRose, so we need him badly.

    Nicky C May 17, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

    I’ll tell you what happened:

    Booz Solo was frozen in carbonite by Mc-Foster the Hutt in Round 1. Derrick Skywalker has been looking for a way to rescue him ever since. When the the Bulls finally slayed the Indiana Rancors, Booz was let out of his carbonite tomb, but he was blind and fragile for quite some time afterward…and this lasted the entire Hawks series. He needed to readjust to normal living and playing again. I think he’s finally there.

  9. Anonymous May 18, 2011 at 12:19 am #

    LOL. Love the post Nicky C.

    Sorry Matt but I’m not ready to buy in to the Carlos act just yet. Maybe he’s changed his ways but it’s still too early to fall for it hook, line and sinker. I do agree that we need Boozer to play well and probably should lay of the boos, now that the Bulls are in deep playoff teritory. Winning makes everyone look like a “Rose”, but with Carlos it’s best to handle with care, lest you get pricked by one of those nasty thorns.
    And yes Cleaveland felt the prick,
    So did Utah, where his effort and toughness were in question,
    And I haven’t yet forgotten, a season before he signed, it was Miami for which he pined.
    But warts and all he’s ours now and I’ll be rooting for Booz like the rest, so the Bulls can Ring up # 7!

    I’ll give him this though, he’s got a sweet stroke, and a nose for the ball. So go Booz, bash on Bosh.

    David May 18, 2011 at 1:58 am #

    I think i’d feel a lot better about booz if I didnt keep wanting to see more of Taj. If his backup looked worse itd be a lot easier to be more forgiving for any faults he would seem to have at times imho.

    BoppinBob May 18, 2011 at 4:13 am #

    Anyone who has watched the Pacer and Hawks series and says that Boozer wasn’t trying needs to have their eyes checked. He may not have been effective, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. He did a very good to great job of rebounding in both series. When you are in a slump you have to keep shooting, he did that and eventually started to come out of the slump. The Bulls do not need a consistent 20-10 (it would be nice thought), but the threat of 20-10 is enough. There are usually 1 or 2 guys that step up and assist DRose with the scoring chores. Deng, Noah, Boozer, Gibson, Korver, Brewer, Bogans, they all take turns and take advantage of what the other team is not defending. This season the Bulls have gone into the playoffs with 11 guys playing 9 or more minutes and they are all contributing defensively and offensively. This team may be deeper than the three-peat Bulls. I must add that Deng has been awesome all season and seems to be even better in the playoffs. I think “DoAll” is making people eat their words. He is worth every penny he is being paid, and has been all along.

    Luke May 18, 2011 at 4:48 am #

    this is where i differ… i understand he was hurt. I dont think we need him to be 20-10 every single night. I like his offense. But I hate his on-court personality.

    The guy screams every time the balls comes off the rim, he is always yelling, shaking his head, basically trying to come off as a hard ass…. and even that’s not a problem; until you consider how weak he actually plays.

    You don’t have to be good at defense to have the balls to use your strength and challenge people, or give a guy a hip check back while fighting for position. Boozer does none of this. He takes cheap shots at players head (Josh Smith) and then retaliates like Smith was wrong to lightly shove him back. It really bothers me that someone with his size can be so soft. Why can’t he be our bruiser on defense? not the guy that is even a decent defender, but at least the guy who is going to get rough with you after taking a shot at rose? That’s not a god given talent, or a skill developed through the right coaches… its a guy digging down and putting the team before himself. Take the pain if its going to help send a message.

    Mike May 18, 2011 at 5:41 am #

    I will admit I was someone who was getting frustrated with Boozer through his early playoff woes and I do think he is past them now (and not because of all of the people booing him). I think the main reason why people get upset at players (who on some nights fans feel like even they could play better than, even though they really couldn’t) is that when ANY athlete who makes as much money as Boozer does (it doesn’t matter if you are LeBron James or Baron Davis) isn’t playing up to the level of the dollar amount of their contract, and if this happens for multiple games fans get upset and will eventually boo. Its just the nature of the beast and it can actually be broken down with this simple formula. The higher the contract + the perceived bad performances + duration of perceived bad performances = fan discontent eventually resulting in player being booed.

    ScottA May 18, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    Great stuff Matt; don’t disagree with any of it, but I do wish he could play more effectively through minor injuries. It’s something we should have seen coming, but he doesn’t seem to recognize how much small things effect his game – e.g. continuing to drive when it obviously isn’t working rather than sticking to his jumper, which should be injury-resistant.

    The more I watch Boozer, the more I suspect that’s the main root of his inconsistency. Anyways, you’re right; we kind of need to accept him for who he is and be thankful that we have Taj playing behind him.

  15. Inception May 18, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

    all I gotta say is: “Gimmie dat s***!”

    sam May 18, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    Booz does his best; all the Bulls do; after 90+ games of effort, hustle and winning, they’ve earned our respect by now, every player on this wonderful team, win or lose.

    Chuck May 18, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

    I like Boozington and I think his play is vital to winning this series. He is the only guy on the roster (Taj is growing into one) that can get Bosh/LeBron into foul trouble by pounding it in the post. The Heat have shown time and time again that if any of the Bosh/Wade/LeBron trio have to sit extended minutes they are in big deep doo doo. The Bulls need Booz to be a post monster with his rebounding/scoring/drawing fouls ability that the Heat really have no counter for.
    Thibs really needs to consider putting Boozer on Anthony and Noah on Bosh to make sure that Booz does not get into silly foul trouble early. Altohough with the Bulls defensive scheme of constant switching I’m not sure it really matters.

    Nick May 18, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    Luke –

    If you look at that play in the ATL series, it was obvious that Boozer was bracing himself for Smith landing on him. Boozer didn’t even move his arm once Smith landed. If you have an actual piece of evidence that he is a cheap player, I’d love to hear it, but until then, I can’t say that he is a cheap player. He would have had a reputation as one in the 8 years he’s played in the league.

    Other than that, I agree that he’s soft, but I disagree with your conclusion that he’s not a team player because of it. With his injury problems, Boozer shouldn’t be taking risks with his body, and I can bet that the Bulls think that way, as well.

    Crazee May 18, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

    I saw people describing Boozer’s 14 point Game 1 as “not that great”, and certainly it wasn’t eye popping brilliance or anything. It was efficient, though. Game 1 was a night Booz would have gotten 20 in Utah, but he only had ten shots.And he played half the game. That gets overlooked at times in the criticism. Look, I know Rose needs to take 25 shots. And Deng needs 15-18. Noah gets his through effort plays.

    Sometimes, Booz just doesn’t get enough shot attempts. It comes from playing almost half a season without him, including training camp and preseason. I wouldn’t be surprised if Boozer is better next year in terms of getting in the flow of the offense.

    Savage May 18, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    While I agree with most of the post I do have to stick with my prior observations regarding Boozer’s playoff run. He does appear to be a good team mate chemistry wise. And that is a very important aspect of the game. However, in many of the games played in the first two rounds injured or not Boozer was playing with almost no enthusiasm. He was simply stepping out of the way when people drove in his direction. He did this on numerous occasions. That is not how playoff basketball is meant to be played. Now for whatever the reason it appears he is back on track playing with intensity and aggression. That is what our team needs. I am by no means a Boozer hater I just call em like I see em. Hopefully he continues to play aggressively and we win this series!! Go Bulls!

    Savage May 18, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

    To clarify my point, it was not that Boozer was struggling to score(that happens to all players from time to time) it was that he was playing without an edge.

    Ryan May 18, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    Boozer is a big key to beating Miami. The Bulls are america’s team now, and they must make the El Heat de Havana stand and fight in a halfcourt game.

  23. Matt May 18, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

    But it was so much easier to just hate on him when the Bulls weren’t dominating enough to meet expectations…

    Bex May 18, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

    Matt–good post.
    I will be at the game tonight and I will NOT be booing Boozer. (even if he lays an egg)

    Brad S. May 19, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    ***Post after game two***

    …Ummmmm, yeah. Matt, ya know i love ya, but this post was a terrible case of bad timing.

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