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Bulls’ front-line drive impresses Nazr Mohammed

Chicago native Nazr Mohammed says all Bulls’ front-court players are good rebounders each has distinct talent. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Chicago native Nazr Mohammed says all the Bulls’ front-court players are good rebounders, and each has a distinct talent. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 22, 2012 6:52AM



Nazr Mohammed has seen his share of NBA bigs.

He has played on eight teams since 1998, including a San Antonio Spurs team that won the NBA title in 2005. His last team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, had a deep and talented front line.

But Mohammed, 35, believes the Bulls have something special, too.

Asked if the Bulls’ front court was one of the better ones he has been a part of, Mohammed didn’t hesitate.

“Yes, it is,” he said. “It definitely is because everyone does something different and does it well.’’

The 6-10 Mohammed wasn’t only basing his opinion on what he has seen on the court, but what he has seen in the locker room from Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson and even Luol Deng and Vladimir Radmanovic when coach Tom Thibodeau decides to go small at the four.

“We go at each other like we’re on another team,’’ Mohammed said of practice. “There are no favorites in practice as far as, ‘OK, I’m going to take it easy on this guy.’ That just doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen on any good team. That competitiveness comes out in the real games.’’

So does the versatility. That’s an advantage that Thibodeau is counting on, especially with Derrick Rose’s timetable from knee surgery still the great unknown.

“We have quality depth up front, and we have the ability to swing Luol up there, and we have Vlad, so I think we’re going to be pretty good up front,’’ Thibodeau said.

That’s as big of an endorsement as the understated Thibodeau will give.

Boozer wasn’t as guarded in expressing his excitement about his teammates up front.

“Our front line is great. Great,’’ Boozer said. “Even add Lu because we can play Lu at the four sometimes when we go against other teams that go small. In our opinion, we’ve got a great front line, one of our strengths.’’

Gibson is the player who excites Boozer, Mohammed and Noah the most.

“He’s amazing,’’ Boozer said. “Works hard every day, gets there early, stays late, getting better and better. He can guard one through five, score from outside, great shot blocker, just crazy how fast he’s getting better.’’

Mohammed had similar thoughts.

“His athleticism and ability, of course, that stands out,’’ Mohammed said. “Then he can guard anyone on the court. He has great touch from the elbows, corners, free-throw line, all that, and then has good post moves. He brings a lot of different aspects to the game.

“He has all the tools, and now it’s just his approach.’’

The individual praise is nice, but it’s what the group can do collectively that has Thibodeau feeling good.

In the Bulls’ 92-81 victory Friday over the Minnesota Timberwolves, Boozer carried the offense with 24 points while Gibson and Noah did the dirty work, combining for 23 rebounds and four blocked shots. Mohammed played 15 minutes off the bench, scoring six points and grabbing four rebounds.

It’s an on-any-given-night unit with no real superstar.

“We’re all decent rebounders, decent offensive rebounders,’’ Mohammed said. “You have guys with length that can challenge at the rim, guys that can block shots, guys that can guard multiple people like Taj and Jo and Booz, and then we’ve got a stretch four that can shoot lights-out in Vlad. So we have guys that each bring a different piece to the table.

“And, more important, it’s a group that will sacrifice to win games. That might be our best trait.’’

Mohammed would know.



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