Nets’ Johnson likes Bulls’ 1-2 punch of Rose and Boozer


Dec 31

After the New Jersey Nets realized they weren’t getting any of the so-called “big three” of last summer’s free agency bonanza, they quickly set their sights on other players, including Carlos Boozer.

Of course, Boozer ultimately decided to sign a five-year deal with the Bulls. And though he missed the team’s first 15 games of the season with a broken right hand, he’s settled in nicely and provided Chicago with the true power forward it has lacked for many years.

With Joakim Noah now sidelined eight to ten weeks, Boozer has stepped his game up as of late, posting a double-double in four of his last five games, and averaging 25.4 ppg and 12.0 rpg over that time.

“Derrick Rose and [Carlos] Boozer are really a nice one-two punch,” acknowledged Nets coach Avery Johnson prior to Friday’s game. “To be able to add a free agent like Boozer to this existing roster was a really nice pickup for them. I know [Joakim] Noah is injured, but when he comes back, they’re looking like they’re going to be a solid fourth or fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.

“They’re doing a nice job defensively,” Johnson continued, who praised the job done by Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “Rose causes all kinds of havoc for your defense. You can game plan him all you want, but he finds a way to beat your defense. We’ve got to do a good job today of trying to make him play some defense so he won’t save himself on defense for what he does on offense.”

Johnson said he’s well aware of Rose’s continued improvement from year to year, noting he’s clearly a better three-point shooter this season.

“Even the ones he misses, he takes with confidence,” Johnson said of Rose. “He’s always been a confident player, but he’s really worked hard on his jump shot. I can tell it means a lot to him in terms of keeping defenses honest. [He is] another one of those point guards in our league that can score the basketball, but he can also break the defense down, pass, and [has] great leadership. He does it in his own way—maybe not as vocal, but in his game, leads his team and it’s fun to watch.”

Johnson is in his first season with the Nets following more than three seasons as head coach with the Dallas Mavericks. In 2005-06, Johnson led the Mavericks to their first ever appearance in the NBA Finals en route to earning NBA Coach of the Year honors. His final season in Dallas came during the 2007-08 campaign.

While there was speculation during the summer of 2008 Johnson would be among those considered as the Bulls’ new coach, the job ultimately went to Vinny Del Negro. Two summers later, his name surfaced again with Chicago’s opening, but Thibodeau landed the position.

On Friday, Johnson talked about taking two seasons off away from the game and waiting for what he said was the right opportunity to arise.

“I definitely wanted to wait a year, two years was great,” said Johnson, who also did some work in television which he said he really enjoyed. “I had been in the NBA for 20 straight years. I was dealing with a son in seventh grade and a daughter that was in ninth grade at the time. So it was good for me being home in those two years and put out some fires and make sure they were on the right track. Now, I have a senior in high school heading into college and my son is a freshman playing varsity basketball.

“Now I’m glad to be back coaching again,” added Johnson, who also did some work in television which he really enjoyed. “It’s what I love to do.”

Farmar and Murphy out of action

The Nets will be without Jordan Farmar (bruised knee; MRI results expected at some point Friday) and Troy Murphy (viral infection, flu; not likely to be with team the rest of their road trip) when they face the Bulls at the United Center.

Bulls vs. Nets season notes

The Bulls have won the season series against the Nets just twice over the last ten seasons (tied series twice) when taking two of three encounters in the 2005-06 season … last season, New Jersey won the season series 2-1 … in their first meeting last year, New Jersey came into the UC and defeated Chicago 103-101 … Brook Lopez led the way for the Nets with 25 points and 10 boards, while both Derrick Rose and Luol Deng scored 27 points for Chicago … in their second matchup last season, Chicago defeated New Jersey 106-83, behind Derrick Rose’s 27 points and Taj Gibson’s 22 points and 13 boards … Chicago is 52-18 at home against New Jersey and have won seven of its last nine games against the Nets at the United Center … the Bulls are 3-5 against the Nets all-time in overtime games, with their most recent overtime game being played last year … New Jersey defeated Chicago 127-116 in double overtime.

Audio—Nets Coach Avery Johnson’s pregame comments (12.31.10):

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