Boozer not upset, but 76ers may be


Jan 7

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This Bulls team has a long way to go to be a championship team. Sure, they don’t have the talent quite yet for that level of play, and, unlike the 1990s Bulls, they don’t even know how to have a good controversy.

Those six-time champion Bulls rollicked through the league and loads of internal and external disputes: Demands to be traded or maybe to be traded–mostly by Pippen, whatever Rodman was up to next or what dress he was wearing, Jordan’s fury over teammates or, at times, getting new ones, Phil Jackson and Jerry Krause. There was always something. It was the golden era for the media.

So Carlos Boozer, the big summer free agent acquisition, sits the entire fourth quarter Wednesday as the Bulls lose in New Jersey, and it appears Boozer was upset afterward, though I was there and he didn’t seem mad as much as he knew better than to fall into that media trap of fighting with the coach.

You play six years for Jerry Sloan and learn quickly you don’t win those battles.

So the Bulls showed up for shootaround Friday morning in Philadelphia—and it is a happier place than Newark, anyway—and Boozer was asked if he was mad about what had occurred and you might be able to infer some stuff if he wasn’t laughing so much.

You know, the city of Brotherly Love and all that, though as I recall that original Congress had some differences of their own.

 So, Carlos, were you mad?

“I was mad we lost,” he said. “I was pissed we lost. And, of course, when you lose you want to be out there to help your team playing as a competitor. I felt like if I was out there I would help my team win. That’s over and done with now. You can’t go backwards.

“As much as you (media) guys want to go backward, we can’t go backward, so we’ve got to move forward.”

Don’t you expect to be on the court at crunch time?

“I don’t worry about that,” Boozer went on as he began to laugh. “That’s not an issue to talk about. I’m looking forward to the game tonight. Any more segues where I can get us to the game tonight? Great game tonight, guys. Big game.”

These guys just don’t know how to work a controversy.

But wait!

After a while Boozer went into the locker room. When he exited coach Tom Thibodeau was talking with reporters. Boozer stopped and raised his fist toward Thibodeau.

Hey, we might have something here.

Boozer offered a big smile and fist bumped with Thibodeau, then enthusiastically ran onto the court.

No, you’re not getting drama from this team. They don’t even have as many technical fouls combined, including the coaching staff, as Dwight Howard.

Some more effort, though, would be nice for Thibodeau.

That really, really was the reason Thibodeau quarantined Boozer in the fourth quarter. Derrick Rose sat out most of the quarter as well. There is something to message sending and all that and holding players accountable, but Thibodeau isn’t much into the mind games. No, he’s no Phil Jackson. But Thibodeau does ask me at times what those Native American sessions are like. He wanted to know if they really burned incense and what exactly is incense.

Thibodeau is a coach who saw the Nets shoot 61.1 percent in the first quarter and 68.4 percent in the third quarter. That was against the starters.

The Nets then shot 36.4 percent in the second quarter, and they would shoot 33.3 percent in the fourth quarter primarily those quarters against the Bulls reserves. Yes, the Nets played more reserves in the second quarter, though not that many as they don’t really have that many. And there’s not much difference between their best and not so best.

The fact was the Bulls starters weren’t much into the game and weren’t doing much, and that included Boozer, and that included Rose as well.

Rose really does have a point guard mentality.

He cannot afford to have that on this team.

Maybe if he played with Bosh and Wade. But not with Kurt Thomas and Keith Bogans. With Joakim Noah out, Rose also needs to look for his shot more. I know. Defenses know that as well and Avery Johnson is a smart guy and he basically told his team: “See that Rose guy. Everyone guard him. Somebody else watch Boozer.”

Boozer wasn’t doing much, though more so on defense as he ran into a rare night Kris Humphries decided he was Otis Thorpe, running the floor, dunking, paying attention. Humphries had just been demoted in favor of rookie Derrick Favors, and Humphries decided to show something. It won’t happen often, but he beat the Bulls.

“We were horrible,” agreed Boozer. “That’s why coach was riding with the guys who were out there. The bench played great. They got us back in the game. The way CJ (Watson) played, the way Ronnie (Brewer) played, those guys got us back in. Kyle (Korver) hit a couple threes to get us going. It was a good decision. We almost won the game.”

Thibodeau doesn’t take the time to analyze anyone’s psyche and figure out what a move will mean in April. He needed someone who looked awake. He needed a stop. He says that a lot.

“Again, it wasn’t necessarily Carlos,” Thibodeau reiterated. “It was our whole team. We were low energy going into the fourth quarter, down 13 points. We were looking to get more energy into the game. The second unit went in, they were playing well. We had to make up ground. They made up the 13 very quickly. I just decided to ride that group because they were playing well.

“Carlos has been great,” Thibodeau said. “The guy’s a winner. He’s going to be on the floor most of the time. He and Derrick sat most of the fourth quarter and they’re cheering their teammates on. At that point, we’re just trying to get a win. That’s what that was all about. It wasn’t about any other stuff.  It’s easy to point and say, ‘This guy didn’t do this. That guy didn’t do that.’ We play team defense. We weren’t protecting our basket and that’s a team responsibility. In transition and halfcourt, it’s not just one guy. It’s an entire group. I knew we were low energy. Carlos has done a lot of good things defensively. His rebounding is terrific. But you have to evaluate the entire team and how it’s functioning.”

It wasn’t functioning much, and now the Bulls Friday night face the team version of Kris Humphries. The last time the teams played, the Bulls led by 50 and ended up winning by 45. The 76ers players thought the Bulls were having a little too much fun at their expense. If the Bulls aren’t particularly energetic Friday night, we may see more of Brian Scalabrine than anyone cares to at this point. And that would be making a statement.

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