Carlos Boozer says Bulls’ hunger helps overcome injuries
There’s an art to playing the disrespect card. It has to be timed well.
After a tough loss that followed a big victory, for example. Or perhaps as a reminder to those who questioned the team before the season.
Carlos Boozer slapped the card on the table, flipped it over and played it Saturday.
“We slipped tonight,’’ Boozer said after the Bulls’ lifeless 92-75 loss in Atlanta. “They just had more juice than us. That fight, though, that’s always there.
“People are starting to see that from this team. At the beginning of the year, there were a lot of cynics. That’s fine. I’m sure we will continue to be overlooked. All we can control is what we do, and we’ve proven to be a good team, despite not having not just Derrick [Rose]. Rip [Hamilton] has been out for a while, too.
“So we’re not just down a few players, we’re down a few really good players, key players, and we’re still winning games.’’
A simple question posed to Boozer, with no simple answer.
On paper, the Bulls’ starting backcourt should be former league MVP Rose and veteran shooting guard Hamilton. Rose has been sidelined all season as he rehabs from a torn left anterior cruciate ligament, and Hamilton likely will miss at least a month recovering from a torn plantar fascia in his left foot.
Yet the Bulls will enter the week atop the Central Division and with some signature victories, including two against the Atlantic Division-leading New York Knicks.
Sure, coach Tom Thibodeau and his defensive-minded, grind-it-out mentality is worth five to 10 victories each year. But every coach knows the horses win the race.
“We got a team full of guys hungry to win,” Boozer said. “You can’t overlook that at this level. Look at us, and let’s be honest: You have an easy excuse to lose. You see what happens to other teams in this league. You got your best player out, another key player out, people just start giving up on games. We don’t.
“We’ve got guys in here that love to compete, love to win. That’s a character mark of this team. We fight, whether we’ve got everybody or we’re short-handed like we’ve been most of the season. All season, really.’’
According to Boozer, there’s a way to build a team full of players like that. He believes it starts with grabbing players with a pedigree of winning in college.
Of the 13 players on the roster, seven have played in the NCAA title game: Boozer, Rose, Hamilton, Kirk Hinrich, Nazr Mohammed, Joakim Noah and Marquis Teague. Even Marco Belinelli has a championship pedigree, leading Fortitudo Bologna to an Italian League title.
“Those are the kind of guys that are high-character, that think about winning above anything else,’’ Boozer said. “That’s the same thing we have right now. We have guys that want to win, want to compete. That speaks volumes about our management, about our coach. [Thibodeau] is not going to bring anyone in that he doesn’t feel is our team kind of guy.
“Even all the changes we had this summer, these guys compete. Nate competes like a [expletive], Marco competes like a [expletive]. We drafted a champion in Marquis, so I think from the top of the organization with Jerry [Reinsdorf] to Pax [executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson] to Gar [GM Gar Forman] to Thibs, they do a great job bringing in guys that compete and want to win.’’
That’s why Boozer’s attitude is, “Go ahead and keep doubting us.’’
He’s playing that card, and it likely won’t be the last time this season.