Bulls forward Carlos Boozer is double teamed as he drives to the hoop in the first quarter of the Chicago Bulls 79-76 win over the Brooklyn Nets in game three of the first round playoff series April 25, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: May 29, 2013 8:02AM
Bulls center Joakim Noah watches and marvels at teammate Carlos Boozer’s efficiency.
After signing a five-year, $80 million contract, Boozer enjoyed a brief honeymoon then endured tough questions and tougher critics.
Could Noah handle himself the way Boozer has?
“Definitely not,” Noah emphatically said. “Not like him.
“He’s a hell of a professional.”
Heading into Game 4 against the Brooklyn Nets, the Bulls have a 2-1 lead, and Boozer is a huge reason why. He’s averaging 20 points and 12 rebounds, both team highs, and is shooting 57.4 percent from the field while adding three assists per game.
“I’m really proud of him. He’s someone who has dealt with a lot since he’s been here,” Noah said. “A lot of expectations, and a lot of criticism. For him to just be in this position of leadership and really dominating is really exciting to watch because he just looks very hungry right now.”
And the Bulls aren’t going to stop counting on Boozer.
“It’s his time,” Taj Gibson said. “This is when we need him most. He’s our star, so we’re going to ride him, and we’re going to ride him till the wheels go off.”
Naturally, though, Boozer is taking the same diplomatic approach he has since his arrival three years ago.
Asked about his season, Boozer reflected more on the team’s triumphs.
“We’ve faced adversity all season, with [Derrick Rose] and different guys being out with injuries,” he said. “Obviously, we’ve been able to stay afloat and get to the fifth seed, which is an accomplishment in itself. Now we’re in the playoffs, and [there is] no need to look back.
“I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish, but hopefully we have a lot more to do.”
Informed that Noah was happy for him because of the criticism he’s faced, Boozer said, “I feel good.
“My teammates are great. I got great teammates, great coaching staff, great management, family is great. So I just feed off of that.”
Boozer, though, was coy when asked about his high shooting percentage.
“Just playing off my teammates and taking what’s there,” he said.
Asked if anything’s different, he said, “Not really, just playing.”
But then he paused and added, “I can’t tell you everything, because then they’re going to hear about it.”
Whatever the reason, the Bulls need Boozer to keep on playing at this level. With Rose sidelined, the Bulls offense has been prone to scoring funks.
“He’s the primary scorer,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “[He] has the responsibility to make the right play. When the secondary defender comes, hit the open man. Get us established in the paint, rebound the ball, and he can score a lot of different ways, so it’s critical.”
Nazr Mohammed is in his 14th NBA season, but his first with his hometown team, and he doesn’t intimately know what Boozer has been through in Chicago.
Mohammed knows that Boozer’s got a “sweet jump shot” and that the power forward has paced the team throughout the season.
“He has been amazing for us this year, and he’s kept us in a lot of games and won a lot of games for us,” Mohammed said. “He hasn’t raised his game at all. He’s been doing that all year. I mean, you have to give him the credit. He’s been an anchor for us all year.”