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THE SCOWLEYS: There are reasons the Bulls should keep Carlos Boozer

Carlos Boozer averaged 19.5 points 10.1 rebounds January has made Joakim Noah better all-around player. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Carlos Boozer averaged 19.5 points and 10.1 rebounds in January and has made Joakim Noah a better all-around player. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 11, 2013 6:38AM



It’s not easy being a Carlos Boozer apologist.

Forget he’s a Dukie and the free-agent fiasco in Cleveland after the 2003-04 season. Ignore the moments he comes across as somewhat fraudulent in interviews and his allergic reaction to playing consistently intense defense at a high level.

What’s left?

Actually, a serviceable power forward who never might live up to the five-year, $75 million contract he signed in the summer of 2010, but one who brings more to the table than he has been given credit for.

So as strange — and difficult — as it is, here are the five reasons the Bulls should keep Boozer — at least through this season:

1. Pre-hamstring issue, Boozer was playing as well as anyone on the Bulls’ roster in January. His 19.5 points and 10.1 rebounds a game for the month included outstanding performances against playoff-bound teams such as the Miami Heat (27 points, 12 rebounds), Milwaukee Bucks (22 points, 11 rebounds), Boston Celtics (19 points, 20 rebounds) and Memphis Grizzlies (17 points, 14 rebounds).

2. Boozer’s playoff history from the Bulls’ run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2010-11 has been slightly rewritten by fans because he actually showed up in the five-game loss to the Heat, averaging 14.4 points and 10.2 rebounds. By comparison, center Joakim Noah averaged six points and 9.8 rebounds in that series.

3. Boozer is scheduled to make $15.3 million next season and $16.8 million in 2014-15, but the Bulls likely would look for amnesty on his contract before that final season. That would take him off the books and clear space for what might be an elite free-agent class that summer.

4. Andrea Bargnani? Really? Cheaper, yes. But the Bulls are built on defense and rebounding, not on a 7-footer who shoots three-pointers and has averaged 4.9 rebounds in his career. Yeah, coach Tom Thibodeau would love that trade. And general manager Gar Forman says the Bulls are not over the luxury-tax threshold.

5. Boozer’s low-post presence has made Noah a markedly better all-around player. The high-low game the two play is, at times, a thing of beauty.

Meanwhile, my new favorite NBA reality show is ‘‘Kobe and Dwight: A Match Made in Hell.’’ It isn’t often we all get to watch two phonies melt down daily on the road to becoming mortal enemies.

And save the drama and just give LeBron James the MVP trophy now.

Player of the week

James Harden, Houston Rockets SG: There was his triple-double in a victory against the Charlotte Bobcats, followed by a blowout of the Golden State Warriors in which he went 4-for-5 from three-point range and handed out seven assists, despite playing only 30 minutes. But his best game — 36 points and 12 rebounds — came in a loss to the Heat.

Team of the week

Denver Nuggets: George Karl still doesn’t get the recognition he deserves as an elite coach, but he’s at it again. In rattling off eight consecutive victories, the Nuggets downed the Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana Pacers, Rockets, Bucks and Bulls — all potential playoff teams.

The big five

1. Heat. 2. San Antonio Spurs. 3. Thunder. 4. Los Angeles Clippers. 5. New York Knicks.

Big number

6-0: The Celtics’ record in their first six games without All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo was lost to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Jan. 25, but the Celtics have victories against the Heat, Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers since then.

Key games for week of Feb. 11-17

Spurs at Bulls, 7 p.m. Monday: Not exactly a stroll into the All-Star break for the Bulls, who host the Spurs, then visit the Celtics. Maybe Noah and Kevin Garnett can rekindle their friendship.

Brooklyn Nets at Pacers, 6 p.m. Monday: The Pacers finally have played up to their preseason hype, while the Nets are an inconsistent collection of talented coach-killers.

Rockets at Clippers, 9:30 p.m. Wednesday: The last game before the break features two teams from the Western Conference looking to make playoff statements — one louder than the other.



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