Boozer out Monday with sprained ankle


Jan 16

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The Bulls are changing the starting lineup for Monday’s game in Memphis. They wish they didn’t have to.

That’s because Carlos Boozer will not make the trip with the team in order to get treatment on his sprained left ankle. The team does not know how long Boozer will be out as sprained ankles generally become a day-to-day event.

But Boozer experienced significant swelling and was in a walking boot as he left the United Center after Saturday’s thrilling win over the Miami Heat. Actually more of a riding boot as Boozer was being driven in a cart and wasn’t walking very well.

So Taj Gibson will return to the starting lineup, where he was to start the season with Boozer sidelined with a broken hand.

But this time it’s without Joakim Noah, who remains out after his own thumb surgery, and it suggests a difficult stretch ahead for the Bulls with their two front line starters out injured.

So Kurt Thomas and Gibson will start up front with Luol Deng, the latter averaging more than 40 minutes per game in January and with nine of his last 13 of at least 40 minutes. So with Boozer out, it will open up even more likelihood for Deng to play more power forward as well.

So it will be interesting to see if coach Tom Thibodeau gives James Johnson a chance to play. Johnson has played just once in the last 14 games, a brief stint in a blowout win over Toronto. It would seem there is an opportunity for him now with Boozer out and Deng being taxed regularly with big minutes.

Plus, January is a tough month with 16 games, though after the trip to Memphis Monday the Bulls are home the rest of the month until leaving for their second long Western Conference trip. Though the Monday and Tuesday games conclude a four games in five days segment with Boozer seemingly unlikely to play Tuesday at home against Charlotte.

The Bulls then play a TNT national game Thursday against lately staggering Dallas and given the issues with ankle injuries it would seem unlikely in general that Boozer would play this week. Such ankle injuries can last from a few days to weeks, so it won’t really be known until Boozer can seriously test it in the next few days.

It also is ironic the Bulls head into Memphis, where there have been regular rumors of the possibility of shooting guard O.J. Mayo being traded. Mayo is coming off the bench and has been a huge shooting funk with a one of 10 in Saturday’s win over Dallas, making him 10 of 44 the last four games for 22 percent. With injuries, even Sam Young has been playing ahead of him lately, though the Grizzlies insist Mayo is not being shopped around.

Though it would seem possible the Grizzlies would deal Mayo given the uncertainty in resigning Zach Randolph, coming off his fourth game of at least 20 points and 20 rebounds. The Grizzlies certainly would want a power forward if they were to deal Mayo, which would mean Taj Gibson if the Bulls dealt with Memphis.

But with Boozer out again and Gibson now regularly coming in for Boozer in defensive situations, that would leave the Bulls woefully short on the inside as long as Noah is out. And Noah isn’t expected to be back until about or after the trading deadline. Thus given another injury to Boozer, it seems less likely the Bulls can afford to make a major move of any sort at this time.

The Bulls are not expected to add another player on a 10-day contract at this time as Brian Scalabrine probably will get some playing time.

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