The Bulls have no hope of winning the NBA title without Derrick Rose. If they did, why did the team pay him an extra $100 million?
But just because their title hopes are dead doesn’t mean the Bulls believe it. They shouldn’t. It’s their job to believe coach Tom Thibodeau when he says they have more than enough to win, starting with Game 2 of their first-round playoff series against Philadelphia on Tuesday..
That would seem to start with Boozer and this would be the perfect time for the screaming power forward to “quiet the haters’’ the way he told the Our Bulls Guru K.C. Johnson five months ago.
Boozer was supposed to be a 20-and-10 guy. That was a lifetime ago.
Boozer was supposed to be a low-post presence. That became a guy looking for the La-Z-Boy comfort of the mid-range jumper.
He was bad and hurt in last year’s postseason. Geez, he didn’t even see the court in many of the most important fourth quarters.
He owes the Bulls.
Time to pay up.
Boozer lost weight during the offseason. He looked better and was the only Bull who started every game in David Stern’s suicidal schedule. Great.
Except Boozer was less productive on offense. He averaged fewer points, rebounds and assists than his career line. His field-goal and free-throw percentages also finished worse than his career averages. Just to clarify: not a good thing.
Boozer also wasn’t much better on defense when it wouldn’t have taken much.
But one thing jumped out: Boozer was a better scorer and better rebounder in the 27 games the Bulls played without Rose. His production went up. He seemed to embrace the responsibility and respond the way an alleged leader should.
What’s more, Boozer showed some actual low-post moves --- up-and-under, both hands, vaguely resembling the $75 million the Bulls spent on hope a couple summers ago.
When Boozer was a mess last postseason, Rose and the Bulls seemed to force the ball to him early, praying he’d get off because the scouting report was that if Boozer didn’t get off early, he wasn’t getting off at all most games. It often became all-you-can-eat for Taj Gibson.
No better place to start quieting the haters than the low block. Post up. Call for the ball. No, demand the ball and demand that the Bulls play inside-out.
In the Game 1 won over Philadelphia on Saturday, Boozer scored 9 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, and dished off 4 assists, but was part of the group that got torched by creaky Elton Brand. Boozer’s defense apparently makes everyone feel young again.
Boozer’s rebounds all came off the defensive boards. Point guards in the game combined for nine offensive rebounds. So, Boozer can move a little closer to the glass on offense. He will have to.
He will have to do a lot of things to “quiet the haters.’’