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Bulls forward Carlos Boozer’s contributions go beyond stats

Carlos Boozer MarcGortat

Carlos Boozer, Marcin Gortat

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Updated: December 19, 2012 1:01PM

LOS ANGELES — There are questions surrounding the Bulls that remain unanswered just over two weeks into the regular season. Here are two: Can they fix their fourth-quarter issues, and who will consistently produce off of the bench?

The bigger one that was eating at Joakim Noah after the win over Phoenix on Wednesday night: “Nate, what’s up with those toes?’’ Noah asked teammate Nate Robinson, as he looked down at the darkened nails on the point guard’s feet.

Some questions are better left unanswered.

Questions concerning Carlos Boozer are easier for Noah to tackle.

“Experience of playing together,’’ Noah said of life with Boozer. “He knows where I’m going to be and I know where he’s going to be. When he gets the ball in his spots, Carlos is a really tough matchup.’’

Not exactly the kind of endorsement many Bulls fans like to hear. “Carlos’’ and “really tough matchup’’ aren’t supposed to be used in the same sentence.

But as this season goes on, especially in the wake of games such as Wednesday night’s overtime win in Phoenix, Boozer’s value is as high as it’s been since he was signed by the club before the 2010-11 campaign.

Forget the 11-for-20 shooting for 28 points in the victory over the Suns. Disregard his 14 rebounds, and three assists. It’s about his playmaking from the power-forward spot, which coach Tom Thibodeau insists is overlooked when Boozer discussions come up.

“A lot of plays are called for him,’’ Thibodeau explained of Boozer. “This is the thing he probably doesn’t get enough credit for — if a play is called for him it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s his shot. It’s his play, and his responsibility is to make the right play. If a second defender comes he has to hit the open man, which he always does.’’

What Boozer doesn’t do anymore is talk about himself. So even after the win over the Suns — Boozer’s best game of the season from an offensive standpoint — it was all about his teammates.

“I was playing off my teammates,’’ Boozer said. “Rip [Hamilton] got me going in transition. Kirk [Hinrich] got me going with his pocket passes. I just stayed aggressive and played off my teammates really.’’

Something Thibodeau would like to see more of, but that requires Bulls players “searching out’’ Boozer more on the offensive side.

Of the eight games the Bulls have played, Boozer has scored single digits in three, including a two-point effort in the win over Minnesota. Boozer’s 13.4 average is the lowest since his rookie year, and this for a guy who’s making $15 million this season, $15.3 next season and then $16.8 in the 2014-15 season.

He will likely be amnestied before that final season on his contract, but until then Thibodeau is stressing that Boozer’s presence is a must, with or without Derrick Rose on the court.

“I mean in the end you know where he’s going to end up,’’ Thibodeau said of Boozer’s numbers. “I thought the last game [against Boston] he started to find his offensive rhythm, and I thought [against Phoenix] he started that game very aggressively, and then played well throughout.

“You know what he’s going to give you.’’

No questions about that.

† Scottie Pippen will appear in the Goodman Theater’s Dec. 14 production of “A Christmas Carol” with 7-year-old Rockford resident La’Ren Kimble as part of the Make-A-Wish-Foundation. Kimble suffers from kidney cancer.

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