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Fans don’t like Carlos Boozer, but he’s appreciated by Bulls, brass

Chicago Bulls v WashingtWizards - NBA Global Games Rio 2013

Chicago Bulls v Washington Wizards - NBA Global Games Rio 2013

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Updated: November 19, 2013 6:35AM



Bulls forward Carlos Boozer paused for a second, then laughed.

“Who gave me the nickname ‘The Lightning Rod’?’’ Boozer asked, sounding as if it was the first he’d heard it.

Told it was coach Tom Thibodeau, Boozer laughed louder, shaking his head.

“That’s funny,’’ he said. “I guess it’s a good thing I’ve got thick skin.’’

Boozer, 31, knows he’ll never receive the thunderous welcome Derrick Rose enjoyed Wednesday at the United Center. He’ll never be a fan favorite. If anything, he’s the fans’ built-in excuse, the consolation prize during the summer the Bulls were unable to land LeBron James or Dwyane Wade.

Some consolation prize. Boozer has averaged 16.2 points and 9.3 rebounds during his three-year stay and averaged 16.4 points and 9.6 rebounds in the playoffs last season. He has been a model of consistency, but he’s also the player Bulls fans target when they’re frustrated.

Here’s a little secret: Boozer couldn’t care less about what fans say about him.

Sociology was his major at Duke, but he minored in “not giving a dang what you think about me.’’

“You’re either loved or hated playing Duke basketball,’’ Boozer said. “I’ve been at the highest level of basketball at every level, and going to Duke, you learn that right away. It isn’t like there are fans that kind of like you.

“I think I got a lot of my thick skin from being a Duke basketball player. Even when you come to the NBA, a lot of players wanted to be recruited by Duke who weren’t or we may have beaten them to win a championship or go to the tournament, whatever, and it carries over to the NBA.’’

Mike Dunleavy Jr. knows all about that carryover, especially with Boozer. He played with him at Duke from 1999 to 2002.

“Playing at Duke, well, it is a bit of a divisive place,’’ Dunleavy said. “Duke is love-hate. If they love you, they really love you. But if they hate you, it’s real hate. Probably from Carlos’ standpoint, playing there, playing for Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski], then going to Thibs, there’s a similarity that has definitely helped him throughout the process.’’

Being unappreciated is tough, but to Boozer’s credit, he seems to understand it.

“There are a lot of people that like to critique this, critique that, but they’re not involved,’’ Boozer said. ‘‘They’re not in here to know enough about the game. Like we have so many different players here. Everybody wants to judge me by my numbers, like, ‘He’s not 20-and-10 like he was in Utah.’ This isn’t Utah. It’s not just me and Deron Williams. We’ve got four All-Stars that are on this team, and last year when we still had Rip [Hamilton], it was five.

“It’s OK. I’ll take the heat. I know my teammates appreciate what I bring to the team, my coaching staff does.

“I mean ownership has made it very clear to me how much they appreciate what I bring to the Chicago Bulls organization, so I’m very comfortable.’’

Ownership has. That’s why a source said the idea that Boozer will be amnestied after this season is “completely inaccurate.’’

The Bulls actually might need Boozer more than he needs the Bulls.

“I keep saying to myself, ‘Man, I forgot how good he is,’ ’’ Dunleavy said. “Having played with him in college and seeing him as a multiple-time All-Star, but, man, he’s a nightmare to go against and a great guy to have on your team.

‘‘He can really play. I hope people appreciate him as much as we do.’’

Highly unlikely.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com



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