Boozer lost for eight weeks; what now?


Oct 3

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Last week, I wrote my main story from Bulls training camp.

I called it “The indispensable man: Carlos Boozer.”


Yes, there’s still almost a month before the beginning of the season, and it’s not a knee injury or a season ended. But it was a huge blow to the Bulls when the team announced Sunday afternoon that Boozer had sustained a fractured right hand and would be out eight weeks with surgery.

Sure, a lot of the season is left after his return, estimated at the beginning of December. And, sure, the Bulls have a capable fill in with Taj Gibson, who started most of last season.

Of course, Taj got that starting job in November when starter Tyrus Thomas fractured his left arm. No, you don’t want Taj as your backup, though I don’t believe he’s personally responsible for either injury.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is expected to explain the circumstances of the injury later Sunday after the Bulls second practice of the day. After the first practice, the Bulls had no idea of the extent of the injury, which happened at home, apparently in some sort of fall or accident as the Bulls didn’t practice Saturday.

With Boozer out, Brian Scalabrine and Chris Richard could both make the team. Perhaps the Bulls look to pick up one of the free agent big men who isn’t signed. They include Earl Barron, Josh Boone or Brian Cardinal. More likely, there will be a better group of big men being released as training camps wind down to the 15-player limit roster size.

But the reality is you just don’t replace Boozer, a 6-8 double-double guy.

He is the guy who makes the difference for the Bulls this season, the long missing low post presence who complements Joakim Noah inside and draws attention away from the guards outside.

He was the consolation prize after LeBron James and Chris Bosh signed with Miami, and given the makeup of the Bulls roster, a seemingly ideal fit who have the team and fans reasonable hope of a 50-win season and serious competition in the Eastern Conference.

That’s not gone given the injury can be dealt with and has happened so early in the preseason.

But Boozer has a history of injuries, missing 31 games his first season with the Jazz, 49 games his second season and 45 games two seasons ago. Injuries were the issue raised about him.

However, it wasn’t a basketball injury and Boozer has a remarkable ability to play with either hand, so it may not be a lingering issue. Plus, he should be able to stay in reasonable condition while he is out given it is just a hand injury.

Still, it makes the early road for the Bulls — already difficult — that much more troublesome. The team has a rugged two week Western road trip with three back to back sets and its first eight road games against winning teams.

The Bulls obviously will go to Gibson to start at power forward until Boozer is ready. I’d try James Johnson as a backup power forward more. I’ve long felt his major issue is the lack of a position and given his 6-8 size and strength, he should be able to handle many power forwards and even have some matchup advantages with his quickness.

Having seen him for a bit more than a year now, I think his best position might be as a sort of stretch four or mismatch four to give him at least some edge on one end of the court.

Bulls coach Thibodeau is more the so called old school, standard type, so I don’t know how much he’s for such experimentation. But without Boozer, I don’t see how the Bulls do as well playing traditionally. They should be able to maintain with their starting group, but it’s a blow to their depth with Gibson having to move up and leaves the team light with big men with the rookie Omer Asik and free agent possibilities like Scalabrine and Richard.

The Bulls were a team that figured to need to run, and probably even more so now to make up for the loss of that front line scorer. Boozer is expected to miss just one month of the regular season, and the Bulls best hope now is it remains just that. Because for this team, at least, he’s become the indispensable addition.

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