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MORRISSEY: Trading Carlos Boozer right move for Bulls

Carlos Boozer doesn’t play particularly well with Derrick Rose is subpar defender. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times

Carlos Boozer doesn’t play particularly well with Derrick Rose and is a subpar defender. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 9, 2013 8:25PM



Last season, Carlos Boozer referred to people who weren’t on his side as ‘‘haters.’’

The list of ‘‘haters” apparently includes the Bulls, who wouldn’t mind trading him. If you’re not totally with Boozer, you’re against him, right?

The NBA is a business, and there are all kinds of financial reasons the Bulls would love to be free of his fat contract, which, if it took human form, would need to be sawed out of its home just to get medical attention.

That they might be trying to trade him for the Toronto Raptors’ Andrea Bargnani doesn’t necessarily mean the Bulls ‘‘hate’’ Boozer any more than those of us who think his game is lacking and not worth the money. There’s a religious expression for that sort of thing: Hate the sin, not the sinner. We hate the way he can’t play defense. We hate the way the Bulls have been limited in what they can do because of that ugly contract.

One of the theories about why the Bulls might balk at a trade has to do with chemistry: Why mess with a good thing now, just before Derrick Rose comes back from his knee injury? But look at it another way: Perhaps the trade talks are the Bulls’ way of acknowledging they’re not quite so enamored with all those double-doubles Boozer has had this season.

The trade talks also might be management’s way of saying that, despite Denver Nuggets coach George Karl’s recent suggestion that the Bulls might be the second-best team in the Eastern Conference, it doesn’t see this collection of players doing major damage in the playoffs. Better to make some cap room and get ready for next season, when Rose will (hopefully) be back to normal.

It’s hard to believe the Bulls would seek amnesty on Boozer’s contract after the season, something that would allow them to waive him and not have the
$32 million they’ll owe him count against the salary cap or luxury tax. Why? Because they still would owe him the balance of his contract, depending on what he would get from a new team. Former teams often pay a substantial portion of the contract. Does that sound like chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to you? No.

Better to move Boozer now, get rid of that money and get something in return, even if Bargnani makes only $5 million less a season than Boozer.

The bottom line isn’t money, though. It’s that Boozer can’t get you where you want to go. He doesn’t play well with Rose, the only person who matters. He’s not coach Tom Thibodeau’s kind of player in that he wouldn’t know a defensive stop if it hit him in that neatly groomed head of his. And he’s not exactly Mr. May or Mr. June.

If you watched the Bulls’ game Thursday against the Nuggets, you saw Boozer’s shortcomings on full display. He’s slow of foot and can’t jump. That he gets so many rebounds is a credit to his ability to block out and know where the ball is going off the rim. But when he runs up against someone as strong and energetic as Kenneth Faried, he has no chance. There was a reason the Nuggets had 15 dunks.

‘‘Protect the rim,’’ Thibodeau likes to say, but I think Faried just outhustled Boozer to tip in another missed shot.

Look, Bargnani isn’t any better than Boozer when it comes to defense. And Boozer doesn’t get enough credit for his passing ability. But I’d rather have Bargnani, who can shoot the three (though he’s not doing it particularly well this season) and give Rose more room to operate. I’d rather have Bargnani and John Lucas III than Boozer and Nate Robinson.

I say that knowing it’s not going to make a bit of difference to whatever playoff run the Bulls make this season. All I know is that Boozer gets in the way when Rose is trying to drive to the basket.

When it’s crunch time, he often isn’t on the floor because of his defensive liabilities. The Bulls gave Taj Gibson a contract extension this season, and he’s waiting his turn for a starting job. Gibson would be a drop-off offensively but a huge upgrade defensively.

Bulls fans have very short memories. Boozer performed poorly in the playoffs the last two seasons. Here’s hoping the Raptors forgot that, too.



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