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AFTERNOON SPORTS CLUB Boozer's back, but don't expect instant success

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It might take a few weeks for Carlos Boozer to get in the flow of the Bulls' offense.


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No final decision has been made as of yet about whether Carlos Boozer will make his season debut tonight when the Bulls host the Orlando Magic at the United Center, but barring a last-minute setback expect to see the 6-9 power forward in uniform.

"I'm gonna warm up tonight and see how it feels and go from there," Boozer said after the Bulls' shootaround at the Berto Center. "If I can be out there to help my team, I will.

"I think as long as it feels good, I'll probably play tonight. As long as it feels good."

When asked how he was feeling, Boozer said: "I feel OK."

That's the key - that Boozer is feeling fine (just some expected soreness) after two full contact practices Monday and Tuesday.

"The big thing is nothing has really changed," Bulls coach Tom Thibideau said. "The way we approached it is he would continue to practice right up until the game and if he feels like he can go, then he'll go. He hasn't had any problems yet, so I can't foresee any tonight."

There's no question getting Boozer back is an important milestone for the Bulls. They can't become the team everyone believes they can be without Boozer becoming a big contributor.

With Boozer in the lineup, the Bulls should go from a good rebounding team to a great rebounding team. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better rebounding frontline than Boozer, center Joakim Noah and small forward Luol Deng.

Boozer also will make the Bulls a better offensive team. He'll make teams pay for double-teaming point guard Derrick Rose and the two of them running on the pick-and-roll should be a headache for opposing defenses.

If Boozer gets the same open looks on the perimeter that Taj Gibson has been getting you can expect him to sink quite a few.

But it would be unrealistic to expect him to be a 20-point, 10-rebound performer right off the bat. There will be an adjustment period – both for Boozer to get in regular-season form and to develop a rhythm with his new teammates.

How long that adjustment period will be is anyone's guess.

"We won't know until he's out there," Thibodeau said. "I mean, you can only go by what you're seeing. In practice, he's been fine, but again, practice is a lot different than the game. Once he gets out there, we'll see where his conditioning is, we're gonna see where his timing is and we'll go from there."

Boozer, though, doesn't believe he'll have any trouble settling into the Bulls' offensive scheme. He said his understanding of the offense is very high.

"I've been watching every day," he said. "I started going through it about a week and a half ago. I've been going through the plays since I got my cast off about three or four weeks ago.

"I come in early, go through the plays with the coaches and some of the players and now that I'm able to get the handcuffs off I'm doing even more. I feel very comfortable with our offense."

Another reason Boozer might get off to a slow start is the protective guard he's wearing on his right hand. It resembles a weightlifting glove with half of it cut off so only the part of the hand below the ring finger and pinkie is covered.

The guard is designed not to be intrusive, but you're still wearing something you're not used to wearing.

"I'd rather not play with it, but I know it's probably smarter to start off with it," he said. "As soon as I'm comfortable without, I'm gonna take it off."

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