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IN BRIEF: Hand signals suggest Boozer won't be ready when trip ends

DALLAS -- When the Bulls began their seven-game road trip earlier this week, the hope was that power forward Carlos Boozer (broken right hand) would be ready to go when they return home in early December.

Now it's looking like that might be a little ambitious, if not unrealistic.

''I'm getting the doctor's advice,'' Boozer said Friday before the Bulls played the Dallas Mavericks. ''He wants me to wait until the eight-week mark [before practicing with contact], and I'm trying to listen to him and at the same time listen to my body. I'm trying to wait until the eight-week mark to have full-contact practice, but I'm starting to get a little anxious.''

Boozer, though, admitted his hand still is healing after his cast was removed Nov. 2.

''It's still sore, it's not 100 percent, it's not ready yet, but it's getting better every day, and it's progressing in the right direction,'' he said. ''As long as it keeps getting better, I'll be happy.''

Eight weeks from his Oct.5 surgery is Nov. 30, the day before the Bulls return home the next day to play the Orlando Magic. Even if Boozer practices Nov. 30, it's not as if the Bulls will activate him immediately.

''We'll know better once he starts practicing,'' Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ''He's still two steps away.''

Boozer likely will need a few practices to develop some rhythm. But he said he won't need time to get in condition.

''I'm right there," he said. "The thing about my injury is I've been able to run a lot and stay in shape.''

When Boozer does return, he'll be wearing a protective guard on his right hand. The device -- similar to a weightlifter's glove with padding on the back of the hand -- is being designed, and he hopes to receive it when the Bulls are in Los Angeles the next few days.National exposure

After the Bulls' last two games were carried nationally on ESPN, their next game, Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, won NBA TV's ''Fans Night'' vote and will be carried on that network at 9:30.