Noah, Boozer and Gibson are monsters of the middle
BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter February 27, 2014 9:06PM
BULLS AT MAVERICKS
The facts: 7:30 p.m., CSN, 1000-AM.
Updated: April 1, 2014 10:27AM
Carlos Boozer’s comments did not go unnoticed.
After all, it isn’t very often that fourth-quarter playing time is questioned, but the Bulls power forward did just that in early February.
General manager Gar Forman didn’t like it, and coach Tom Thibodeau liked it even less.
But in the locker room? It was embraced.
Not because of some sort of coup in the works, that would never happen under Thibodeau’s reign. Rather, Boozer’s teammates know that the sacrifice and selflessness asked of them on a nightly basis sometimes leads to venting.
“It didn’t bother any of us at all,’’ Taj Gibson said. “As a matter of fact, we told him we wanted him to be like that, talk like that. To be honest, there are times I want him in there in the fourth. There have been games where I just didn’t have it going, and I wanted him to lift me up.
“You look at his defense, and his defense is getting better, so he should be able to do it in the fourth, but it’s up to the coach. Sometimes [Thibodeau] sees things we just don’t see.’’
All Thibodeau sees right now is what he calls “the three-headed monster.’’ The interchangeable parts of Gibson, Boozer and Joakim Noah have different skill sets but are rarely on the floor together.
Noah is the constant, while Boozer is the starter and Gibson the finisher. That’s what Boozer has had a problem with. That’s also why his teammates reminded him that unselfishness is seldom seen and is a trait only displayed by championship teams.
“This league is full of selfish teams,’’ Gibson said. “That’s why we’re able to do what we do every year, even short-handed. The one thing Tom has established here and put in our heads is when we win, everyone shines.
“We don’t tolerate guys not going hard. Those guys don’t stay around here very long.’’
As contradictory as it sounds, Boozer shares that same opinion. That takes a certain amount of sacrifice, starting with putting his ego in check.
Dwyane Wade has done that in Miami and has back-to-back titles to show for it. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal couldn’t keep it going, and the dynasty crumbled in Los Angeles.
“Nah, not when you’re trying to win,’’ said Boozer, when asked if it has been a difficult adjustment for him. “You sacrifice for the group, and that’s what we’re trying to do right now, sacrifice for the group so we can win. We all have different roles at different times, but [the three of us] bring the juice for this team.’’
And the juice has been brought.
In winning seven of their last eight, Boozer, Noah and Gibson have been the catalysts. Boozer has averaged 14.1 points and 9.0 rebounds in that time, while Noah (15.4 points, 12.6 rebounds and 6.5 assists) and Gibson (17.3 points and 7.4 rebounds) also are on fire.
“Can we be the best front line in the league come playoff time?’’ Gibson said. “That remains to be seen. I do know when Joakim and Booze start a game off on that rampage, I think we’re unstoppable.
“We all work hard, all humble, all pull for one another, all wait because you know your time will come if you handle business the right way. That’s the bright spot here. You shine, I shine.’’