Bulls

Thibodeau: Boozer criticism unjust

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Thibodeau: Boozer criticism unjust

Don't count Tom Thibodeau among Carlos Boozer's detractors.

As his coach, Thibodeau would be prudent to not publicly criticize Boozer anyway, but the defensive-minded basketball lifer also understands that while Boozer may never be a great individual defender, he did contribute to the Bulls' league-best team defense last season.

"I've said this all along about Carlos: Carlos has been one of the best defensive rebounders in this league for a long time," Thibodeau said Thursday. "So when you evaluate our starters, defensively I thought overall, it was good. It can be better. We play a collective defense; he's part of it.

"I think the thing that set him back last year was the injury in training camp and then missing the two months, but I also think he had stretches where he played great for us and after reviewing the film, I'll say this," he continued. "That he was much better defensively than he was given credit for."

As for Boozer's offensive production, which waned significantly during the playoffs, Thibodeau, unlike the vast majority of the team's fan base, is willing to give the power forward a mulligan after both of their first seasons in Chicago.

"I felt a big part of that criticism was unjust. He didn't have a great year, but when you look at what he did, he had a very good year and I expect him to be better this year because hopefully, he'll be healthy," he said. "But if you look at Carlos' career, you're looking at a guy who has performed at a high level and his team has won at a high level, so I'm expecting great things from him this year."

Boozer himself acknowledged his own disappointing play in the postseason in a wide-ranging interview with the Chicago Tribune this week. While the power forward knows some observers are skeptical he'll pick up his level of play, at least his coach -- who knows that Boozer is in Chicago for the long haul, as it's extremely unlikely the Bulls use the amnesty clause on him and his contract makes him virtually untradeable -- is in his corner.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls take on Suns

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls take on Suns

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Bulls take on the Phoenix Suns Sunday on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live.

1. Something's got to give

What's the opposite of an unstoppable force vs. an immovable object? That's what we'll be looking at when the Bulls have the ball in their hands. Chicago ranks dead last in offensive efficiency, while the Suns have the 2nd worst defensive efficiency in the NBA. That means the Bulls, after scoring a season-high 123 points against the Hornets, can build on that momentum against a Suns defense that allowed 90 points in the FIRST HALF to the Rockets on Thursday.

2. Kris Dunn for real?

Fresh off the best game of his young career - he scored 22 points in a win over the Hornets on Friday - Kris Dunn continues to look like the best point guard on the Bulls roster. He's going through a really solid stretch right now, averaging 13.2 points on 47 percent shooting, 4.2 assists and 2.6 steals over his last four games. With Eric Bledsoe out of Phoenix, Dunn could be in line for another big game going up against Mike James and Tyler Ulis, regardless of whether or not he starts over Jerian Grant.

3. Watch out for Devin Booker

We'll try to get an opponent in here once for every tune-in, and Devin Booker certainly fits the bill. Much like Dunn is doing, Booker is on quite a roll these days. Over his last four games Booker is averaging 30.5 points on 51 percent shooting, 4.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists. The Bulls will need to keep their eyes on Booker at all times, especially after allowing Kemba Walker to go off for 47 points on Friday.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.