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It’s time for Carlos Boozer to start earning his money

Carlos Boozer Bulls tries grab ball against defense EltBr76ers second quarter Game 1 Eastern Conference first round playoffs United Center

Carlos Boozer of the Bulls tries to grab the ball against the defense of Elton Brand of the 76ers in the second quarter of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference first round playoffs at the United Center Saturday, April 28, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 4, 2012 11:45AM



The rip job would be so easy right now.

Nine points, one shot attempt in the second half and five rebounds Tuesday. This is your life, Carlos Boozer.

Instead, this is a plea. One final leap of faith that Boozer finally will get it, finally will understand that it’s no longer about yelling, ‘‘Give me that!’’ on rebounds — as he tends to do — but about taking something.

Taking back some pride.

It’s time for the 6-9, 266-pound Boozer to carry the moment. Because far too often through the first two seasons of his five-year, $75 million contract, it’s been big shoulders, little man.

In what was arguably his most important game in a Bulls uniform Tuesday, Boozer wilted. With Derrick Rose in a knee brace and street clothes, Game 2 screamed, ‘‘Show me a new hero!’’ And with Batman done for the rest of the season, New Gotham was waiting for Boozer to take it.

After all, that’s what he was brought here to do. Sure, he was the consolation prize once the Bulls found out LeBron James was taking his talents to South Beach. But he was supposed to be Robin. He was supposed to be the second option when the going got rough for Rose.

What he was in the Philadelphia 76ers’ 109-92 victory was just another player.

Joakim Noah? He got the memo that it was time for him to step up. And before people want to criticize Luol Deng for his eight-point night, remember that he has a wrist injury that might require surgery at some point this summer.

No, Tuesday was on Boozer.

Arkansas basketball used to be known for ‘‘40 minutes of hell.’’ Boozer’s Game 2 display was
‘‘29 minutes of ‘What the Hell?’ ’’

And the kicker is how the 76ers game-planned for his expected failures. Guard Jrue Holiday was asked what the 76ers discussed when they trailed by eight points at halftime.

‘‘One thing, we wanted to come out and not let Rip [Hamilton] and Kyle Korver get easy looks,’’ Holiday said. ‘‘They are key to the offense, so we kind of tried to get that out of the way.’’

Translation: Boozer is an afterthought in the Bulls’ offense.

As far as how the 76ers feel about Boozer on the defensive side of the ball, well, coach Doug Collins took care of that.

‘‘They’ve got nice, interchangeable parts,’’ Collins said, explaining the difficulty of playing against the Bulls. ‘‘Noah, that high motor of his, is such an important part of their team, keeps balls alive. They’re all very active defensively. Booz might be the one guy that isn’t as active defensively. But they do a nice job.’’

How did Boozer try to change Collins’ mind in Game 2? By going out for the second half, putting a matador hat on and playing olé, as the 76ers ran layup lines to outscore the Bulls 62-37 in the final 24 minutes.

Look, Boozer gets a pass for being a playoff disappointment last season because of a foot injury. But even at 100 percent, it’s obvious that his former explosiveness around the rim is now like a loud ping. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a factor. He still can make a mid-range jumper, as well as clean the boards.

The 76ers did a good job on Boozer during the regular season, holding him to averages of 11 points and 7.3 rebounds in three games. As Holiday put it, though: ‘‘This is the stage we all dream to be on. We play the regular season to be here. Someone has to step up.’’

That goes for the Bulls, and that someone has to be Boozer. He still has three years and more than
$47 million left on his contract.

“Give me that’’?

No, go earn it.



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