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Boozer shaping up just fine

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



NEW YORK — In his last four games, Carlos Boozer is averaging 25 points on 64.2 percent shooting. His season average is up to 19.1 points, and the Bulls are 9-3 since his return from a broken right hand even though they dropped the first two games he played.

But as impressive as the statistics are, they’re downright striking when you consider them after listening to coach Tom Thibodeau assess the power forward’s level of conditioning after the Bulls’ 87-80 victory over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

“It’s amazing that he’s doing what he’s doing,” Thibodeau said. “I still think he’s working himself into shape. His legs aren’t under him yet. He’s in great shape but not great basketball shape, and there’s a difference between the two.

“But you can see what great instincts he has to score 30 points. He knows how to find seams around the basket, and the way he’s rebounding the ball is a testament to his ability. He’ll just continue to get better and better.”

That’s right. That assessment came after Boozer scored a game-high 30 points on 11-for-18 shooting — including the game-clinching basket — to lead the Bulls to a win in a game that could be best described as a defensive struggle.

Despite his scoring numbers and high shooting percentage, Boozer has yet to fully regain the form that made him one of the NBA’s best finishers in the paint during his years with the Utah Jazz.

Simply put, he has missed some shots he usually doesn’t miss and hasn’t finished others as strongly as he normally does. Boozer has just one dunk in 12 games.

“I think it’s timing more than anything,” Thibodeau said. “At times, I think he’s broad jumping more than high jumping.

‘‘He’s always been a very quick jumper inside. His ability to finish with both his right and left [hands], we haven’t seen that yet. But it’ll come, it’ll come.”

Boozer, who missed virtually all of training camp and the first five weeks of the regular season, believes his return to top form will come soon.

“I feel like I’m getting better and better every day,” he said. “I’m still not where I want to be, but I don’t think I’m too far away. I think you find out during the games where you are. I’m not where I want to be, but I’m close.”

What that means for his overall numbers remains to be seen, but there’s little question the Bulls’ offense with Derrick Rose playing point guard will create plenty of scoring opportunities for a big man who can score inside and hit a mid-range jumper.

That much was evident Wednesday. When Rose was double-teamed, he often found Boozer — including a successful pick-and-roll for the decisive basket in the final minute.

Just as impressive was what happened when the Wizards double-teamed Boozer in the post: He found a variety of cutters for easy baskets in amassing a season-high seven assists.

“They just brought a lot players at me, they double-teamed me a little bit more, and I just tried to find the open guy,” Boozer said. “I turned the ball over a little bit, but for the most part, I thought we did a good job moving, and when they double-teamed me, I tried to find the open man.”

Thibodeau believes passing is an aspect of Boozer’s game that’s often overlooked.

“The one thing about Carlos, if you cut and you’re open, he’s gonna pass it to you without hesitation,” the coach said. “He has great vision. We think we can play through him, which we’ve done, and create a log of high-quality shots from that.”

Whether it’s scoring, passing, rebounding or doing other things, Boozer believes he has to step up his production (as do the other players) to help the team survive and perhaps even thrive during the two months center Joakim Noah (thumb surgery) is sidelined.

“We can’t replace Joakim Noah — let me make that clear — but we’re trying to find ways to win without him,” Boozer said.



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