Boozer close to practicing, not yet playing


Nov 19

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

You know all those old good news/bad news jokes, like the pastor who tells the congregation they have money for a new church. The bad news is it’s still in their pockets. Or the team voted to send you a get well card. But the vote was 10-9. Or Mr. Obama, you are president, but you get the job now.

Anyway, Carlos Boozer, who has been a gregarious and positive presence on this Bulls road trip (yes, the bad news is he isn’t playing), had some good news before the team’s shootaround Friday morning in Dallas.

Boozer said while there is no major change, “I’m getting better and better every day and I hope to practice at some point next week, the middle, the end, whenever I can.”

Practice! He’s talking about practice!

That’s certainly good news as the Bulls, suddenly, desperately need Boozer’s presence, especially the way Taj Gibson has come back to reality—and it was expected—with one of 16 shooting going into Friday’s game against the Mavericks.

Gibson was shooting more than 60 percent, and most were jump shots, which couldn’t last. But with Gibson quieted, the Bulls withered against the Spurs without any real inside scoring presence.

Suddenly, the Bulls felt the absence of Boozer more acutely.

Boozer has been careful not to set a date for a return and not to lead anyone on about how quickly he’ll be back. He’s clearly been engaged with the team and shown every indication he’d like to be playing. But he’s struggled to return from injuries when he was with Utah, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the hope that Boozer would return Dec. 1 isn’t too optimistic.

Yes, we are getting to that bad news part.

Boozer broke his right hand Oct. 2 and the preliminary prognosis was likely eight weeks, which means perhaps the start of December. Which still is possible, of course.

But Boozer said he still is experiencing pain in his right hand.

“It’s hard to say (when I’ll return) because it’s so damn sore and painful,” Boozer admitted Friday. “Even though I’m able to do more things, it’s hard to predict right now because it’s painful. After I get done working out and trying to strengthen it and going through my exercises, it hurts. But I’m hoping sometime next week to do some contact.

“As long as it keeps progressing and the pain keeps easing and going away, I’m hoping to have a contact practice and getting into it next week,” Boozer added. “That’s the hope.”

I’m no doctor, as the saying goes, and I usually stay at Marriotts. But I also know you don’t just walk into an NBA starting lineup after being out for two months and then after easing into practices for a week. And it’s not like road practices are even very serious.

The Bulls aren’t putting any pressure on Boozer because when they get him back they want him back. They don’t want to risk any sort of relapse. My sense is as long as the team can tread water and stay within striking distance on either side of .500, they are going to be extra cautious with Boozer.

So given that Boozer still is experiencing pain after workouts, and that he is just talking about shootarounds or light practices at the end of next week, and that with four games in five nights and Thanksgiving off between those games the Bulls won’t practice and thus will hardly practice next week, and certainly no hard scrimmages, I cannot see Boozer playing that first week of December.

I’m fairly sure the Bulls wouldn’t even want him to.

Now, this is me talking. I haven’t talked to the Bulls about this, though they seem to be leaving this totally up to Boozer and every sign I get is they are not pushing him or rushing him in any way.

But given the nature of the injury, the timetable and the experience I’ve seen with players coming back from injuries of that sort and, especially one with a new team that he’s never played with, I personally wouldn’t expect Boozer to return until perhaps a few weeks into December, at least.

Again, let me emphasize—and I’m fortunate to be out of newspapers so no one puts the ever present, overhyped bad headline on this—this is merely my observation and speculation.

And you really don’t want to push Boozer, anyway, especially when you want to be a much stronger team in the second half when you still are in position to make another personnel move. As the old saying goes, you don’t win championships in November and December, but you can lose one.

I’m not suggesting this is a title season. But a healthy Bulls team with perhaps a trading deadline tweak in the backcourt or—dare I say—one that perhaps can fall into a “Melo mood” maybe can do something in the playoffs. Which is perhaps why you might want to be cautious now.

The Bulls, of course, would like Boozer to play as soon as possible given he is their premier free agent acquisition, and, well, they really could use him.

But I’d be surprised if that first week of December represented a sure return.

What do you think? Leave a comment below: