So…Carlos Boozer is alive after all.
After going 13-for-37 over his first four preseason games — that’s 35.1 percent “accuracy” for those who enjoy simple math — Boozer finally broke out of basketball purgatory by shooting 10-for-17 from the field for his game-high 24 points. Boozington also added 9 boards, 4 assists and 4 steals (!!).
And people say he can’t play defense.
All kidding aside, Bulls fans always breath a sigh of frustrated relief when Carlos has a strong game. Although even then he can rarely win. If Boozer plays poorly, people complain (often bitterly) about his bloated contract and failure to meet expectations. If Boozer plays well, it’s expected and few people want to give him credit.
We’re about to start Season 3 of the Boozer era, and the man is still something of an enigma. Many fans feel like the Bulls got ripped off a couple summers ago when the team signed Boozer to $75 million free agent contract. People expected Boozer to be the 20-10 machine he was in Utah but believe that Carlos failed to show up.
Only he kind of did show up.
His raw stats are down, but so is his PT. If you check his Per 36 Minute stats, Boozer is still worth better than 10 rebounds and nearly 20 points per game. Last season, he shot 53.2 percent, which ranked 10th in the league and was only a shade below his career average of 53.7 percent. Similarly, last season’s Player Efficiency Rating of 19.7 is pretty darn close to his career average of 20.5.
So Chicago’s Boozer is nearly identical to Utah’s Boozer.
Except for the playoffs that is. His playoff numbers with the Bulls dropped off big time from what he did with the Jazz. But I’m not ready to start talking playoffs just yet.
The bottom line is Boozer shook off the rust and played well. Which is good news.
Said Boozer: “Getting better and better every day, that’s the goal. The reason we have preseason is so we can get better and better and get ready for the regular season. I see myself getting better and better each day, each game, each week, and the preseason’s almost over so it’s about time to get going. … It just happened by the course of the game. It wasn’t like it was planned out. It just happened. We got a couple stops, ran in transition, I did a good job of sealing the ball and making myself presentable to them and they hit me in the right spots to be successful.”
Added Taj Gibson: “He just needed to get going. He just needed to have a strong game to have himself ready for the season. I was saying to him, ‘Just get your legs going. Get yourself going in the post.’ He did a phenomenal job just running the floor, getting early seals, back to the old Carlos we know he can be and it was great. He did a great job. We kept feeding him and we’re going to continue to do that throughout the year. He’s going to be a big part of our success this year.”
Speaking of Gibson…he had a strong night too. Like Boozer, Taj had really struggled through the first four preseason games. Last night, he had a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds) to go with 3 blocks and a steal.
Of course, here’s where I have to say “but.” Minnesota’s frontcourt — which was missing Kevin Love (broken hand) — consisted of Greg Stiemsma, Dante Cunningham, Andrea Kirilenko, Derrick Williams, Lou Admundson and Chase Budinger.
Not exactly a murderer’s row.
Of course, Joakim Noah wasn’t burning it up on offense. Noah went 0-for-6 and finished with only 2 pointsd. But he did have 12 boards, 2 steals and a block. Noah, along with Boozer and Gibson, was a big part of Chicago’s rebounding dominance (47-41).
The defense was strong. The Bulls had 13 steals, 8 blocks and held Minny to 42.7 percent shooting (including 3-for-19 from three-point range). Overall, the Bulls forced 21 turnovers and scored 25 points off of them.
However, the offense again struggled, with the Bulls committing 17 miscues of their own (for 18 points going the other way) and shooting 41.8 percent.
Noah wasn’t the only person whose shot was off. Kirk Hinrich was 1-for-5. Marco Belinelli — who still hasn’t hit a three in a Bulls uniform — was 0-for-5. Rip Hamilton scored 15 points but shot only 5-for-13.
The Bulls also played better in the first half (during which they outscored the T-Wolves 50-35) than they did in the second (when Minnesota outscored Chicago 46-42). And, just like in the last game, coach Tom Thibodeau had to re-insert the starters when the lead was getting away.
Said Boozer: “It was the third/fourth (quarters,) it was the second half. Our flow was a little different. We started trading baskets with them. We had a huge lead in the third quarter. We were up 16, 17, whatever it was. That beginning of the fourth quarter wasn’t what (Thibodeau) wanted, so he brought us (starters) back in. We did a very good job there at the end, but there was a stretch there we just traded baskets with them. That’s not something we like to do.”
Added Deng (who played a way-to-many 37 minutes): “We got to finish games better.”
Finishing is important. Personally, I’m more concerned about offensive efficiency and bench production. But I’m okay if the Bulls work on all those things.