Bulls

20 in 20: Boozer the right fit for Chicago

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20 in 20: Boozer the right fit for Chicago

Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010
10:36 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

A historic summer for the NBA has passed and for the Bulls, while they didn't acquire quite the star power many expected andor hoped for, optimism runs high, both within the organization and throughout the team's fan base. With the offseason coming to an end, the time to fully delve into the upcoming NBA season is here. Instead of a traditional season preview, issues both throughout the league and in Chicago will be probed daily here on CSNChicago.com up until the squad officially convenes for training camp toward the end of September.

9. What type of impact will Carlos Boozer make and is he worth his contract or just a free agency consolation prize?

Boozer didn't have the highest profile of the available free agents this summer. The Alaska native wasn't the flashiest player, nor he did he possess the gaudiest numbers. But even though it will take time to fully evaluate how things will play out this upcoming season, Boozer might ultimately be the best fit for the Bulls.

Think about it. At 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds, the Duke product's blend of brawn, bruising nature, low-post scoring ability and underrated offensive versatility gives Chicago since ... well, here's a hint: this writer -- along with everybody on the current roster, with the exception of Kurt Thomas (this was the pre-Jordan era) -- wasn't born at the time.

Stumped? The likes of Boozer's talent in the post haven't been seen in the Windy City since the days of Artis Gilmore. How about dominant power forwards? The Bull at his position with Boozer's credentials to truly garner league-wide respect -- albeit one with a much different style -- was Dennis Rodman. For a less extreme example, try Horace Grant.

But enough rehashing of the past. A career 17.2-point scorer and 10.2 rebounder on average through his first eight professional seasons, if anything, "Booze" is a model of consistency. Only 28, he brings a veteran presence and significant playoff experience (an added bonus: Jerry Sloan, the hard-nosed former Bulls star, coached him over the past six seasons in Utah, ensuring he'll compete) to a relatively young team.

Boozer, a two-time All-Star, has a reputation for not being durable, but that's partly mitigated by the presence of Taj Gibson, last year's starting power forward, who is coming off a first team NBA all-rookie campaign. While Boozer is the clear starter at the four for Chicago, his reputation for not being the staunchest defender will be challenged by both the blue-collar Gibson and new Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, a known defensive strategist.

Boozer will be expected to defend and buy in to the team philosophy -- again, after playing for Sloan, a noted taskmaster, that shouldn't be an issue -- but he was acquired to fill a gaping hole on offense. The tandem of Gibson and Joakim Noah performed capably last season, but neither player brings the scoring talents Boozer has to the table. In fact, Noah, in particular should team especially well with Boozer. They should make up for each others deficiencies (Noah's still raw post-up game, lack of strength and limited range; Boozer's so-so athleticism and aforementioned lack of defensive prowess) with their respective strengths.

That's probably the biggest positive. Not to say Bulls general manager Gar Forman was only paying lip service when he remarked that Chicago's braintrust rated Boozer their top-ranked available power forward, but that line of thinking was likely influenced more by how they envisioned him complementing their nucleus, specifically Noah and All-Star point guard Derrick Rose.

Boozer has already played with a great floor general in Deron Williams, and while Rose hasn't quite ascended to the Utah playmaker's level just yet, he's not far from it. Williams has a different style than Rose, so it will be an adjustment process, but that's where Boozer's experience and willingness to play second banana on occasion come in. Boozer chose Chicago for the opportunity to win -- he's confident enough to believe the lofty goal of winning a title immediately is feasible -- not the fanfare that he's smart enough to realize won't come as readily with hometown product Rose and fan favorite Noah getting better every day. That willingness to sacrifice alone (despite not necessarily being his new team's first choice in the summer, he reportedly wasn't even tempted by the chance to be the man for the likes of the Nets) is admirable, and the fact that former teammates Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver followed him to the Bulls speaks volumes.

In this day and age, however, fans are too quick to wonder what could have been. While the sting of the triple rejection of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh seems to have disappeared within the Bulls' fan base, it's not hard to predict that as soon as the team undergoes a single misstep, is perceived to underachieve or even fails to jell quickly enough, at least some of the Chicago faithful will lament the franchise not adding the services of even one member of the trio.

When it comes to James or Wade, a Chicagoan, it's hard to argue the downside of not locking up either of the proven superstars -- although one has to consider the potential challenge of how to effectively blend their respective ball-dominant games with Rose's own. But anybody who watched the Bulls on a regular basis last season recognizes that a post-up scorer and outside shooting were bigger needs than adding another dynamic slasher to mirror Rose.

Bosh, on the other hand, was widely considered the top power forward on the market. For those who closely studied the strong second half to last season enjoyed by Amar'e Stoudemire could make a case for him, too. And while Bosh's game might be prettier and Stoudemire's game might be more exciting (like Boozer, neither is regarded as a good defender; both players are younger than Boozer), Boozer's ability to mix it up in the paint fits the already blue-collar Bulls better. Not to mention, Boozer's acquisition was a bit less expensive than most observers project it would have cost to sign the others.

In the midst of his prime, with a game that appears cohesive with the rest of the squad and gives the Bulls' young stars room to grow (forming a pretty formidable triumvirate; Luol Deng makes them a very strong quartet), the ability to fill a major team need, a history of deftly shifting between being a lead guy and a supporting piece, having significant postseason battles under his belt and enough character that the oft-taciturn Sloan spoke up for him (despite Boozer's issues with the Utah front office), in short, Boozer seems like the right guy for both the Bulls and Chicago.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Markkanen held scoreless in 2nd half in loss vs Sixers

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Markkanen held scoreless in 2nd half in loss vs Sixers

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, John Sabine, and David Watson react to the Bulls 100-89 loss to Philadelphia.

1:00 - On Lauri Markkanen going scoreless in the second half

3:50 - Viewer comment on Lauri needs to be traded

6:10 - On Kornet vs Markkanen’s production

6:55 - On Zach LaVine and 0 for 7 from three

10:05 - Viewer comment on Markkanen struggling

11:25 - Viewer comment wanting Joakim Noah back

13:00 - Viewer comment saying Lauri needs to demand the ball

15:45 - Viewer comment on Sabine’s outfit

16:50 - On the national perspective of this Bulls team

19:05 - Matt Peck rant on Denzel Valentine getting another DNP

21:00 - More viewer comments on Sabine’s outfit

22:05 - Viewer comment on the system and Markkanen

23:30 - Lauri tweets the correct way to pronounce his name

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

For the Bulls' rebuild to succeed, Lauri Markkanen must produce consistently

For the Bulls' rebuild to succeed, Lauri Markkanen must produce consistently

PHILADELPHIA — Above all else, Lauri Markkanen is a team-first player.

The Bulls need Lauri Markkanen to produce more.

Markkanen doesn’t like to force shots.

The Bulls need the third-year forward to shoot more.

Therein lies the at times contradictory dynamic that is helping sink the Bulls’ season. That’s not overdramatizing matters either, which is why this issue has been written about often this season—and again Friday night after the Bulls dropped to 1-17 against winning teams following their 100-89 loss to the 76ers.

At halftime, all seemed well. The Bulls took advantage of a 76ers team playing without Joel Embiid to lead by one with Markkanen scoring 12 points on seven shots.

In the second half, the 76ers ran away and hid with Furkan Korkmaz scoring a career-high 24 points, double Markkanen’s output.

Yes, the player the Bulls anointed as one ready for a breakout season failed to score in the second half. Worse, he took just two shots. Luke Kornet attempted more shots than Markkanen in the game.

“I know I can probably attack the rim a little bit more often and be more aggressive and obviously try to get to my spots. But I didn’t feel that I had the opportunities where I could really attack the closeout. So I just tried to play the system and find the open man,” Markkanen said. “I probably have to be [more selfish]. Obviously, I have to get the ball and get to those spots I can take those shots. I’m a team-first guy. So I’m going to do whatever we need to do. But obviously a big part of it is me playing at my own level.

“I got a couple looks in the second half that I could’ve probably launched. But they were deep 3s. And without touching the ball for 5 minutes, I didn’t feel like shooting at that point. It was pretty contested. So I just moved the ball.”

There’s so much to parse from this quote that it may take 10 minutes, 38 seconds to break it all down.

That’s the amount of time Markkanen sat from exiting with 5:29 left in the first quarter—after throwing down two dunks—until returning in the second. He promptly added another dunk and a 3-pointer.

“Obviously the first time you touch the basketball feels a little different after that period of [rest] time,” Markkanen said. “But other than that, I don’t think it affects me. I’m still young. I’m pretty warm even after that kind of stretch. I don’t really feel it.”

When Markkanen averaged 26 points and 12.2 points in 11 February games last season, he averaged 36.3 minutes and took 18.1 shots. He's averaging 30 minutes this season on 12 shots per game.

He attempted 12.7 shots per game his rookie season. To clarify: Kornet taking more shots than Markkanen in a game and Markkanen attempting fewer shots than his rookie season are not good developments.

“We do have to get him going more. Some of it is on him. Some of it is on me,” coach Jim Boylen said. “I just want him to be aggressive. He handles the ball in transition. He rebounds the ball. Offensive rebounds, he had a couple opportunities there. He slashed to the basket in the first half and got a couple great dunks and plays. Gotta keep your energy up and we have to get him involved.

“I just think it’s a learning and growing thing. There have been times he has been very aggressive and he has got himself involved. There are times where I have to get him involved.”

Part of that, obviously, would be playing Markkanen more. He logged 28:48 against the 76ers.

“That’s what it’s been my whole career, right?” Markkanen asked reporters.

Told that he averaged 32.2 minutes last season, including that even busier February stretch, Markkanen alluded to the need to get Thad Young playing time.

“Thad is a key player for us,” Markkanen said.

But this was sold as Markkanen’s breakout season. When the Bulls signed Young in free agency, management and Boylen publicly painted the move as a complementary one to benefit Markkanen.

Instead, the same storyline keeps repeating itself.

It’s not Markkanen’s rolled left ankle. He was able to joke about getting dunked on by Ben Simmons when asked about it.

“I can tell I rolled it a week or so ago. But it’s definitely getting better,” he said. “I still don’t have too much pop on it. But the pain is going away. That’s probably why I got dunked on.”

Markkanen said he feels he has a strong enough relationship with Boylen to ask him to play more if he needed to. But, again, he’s a team-first guy and knows Young is a valuable piece.

“He goes with how the game is going and who is rolling and who is on the floor from there. That’s his decision,” Markkanen said of Boylen determining playing time. “I’m ready whenever my name is called.

“I feel like we have a good relationship. I don’t mind talking to him. We have conversations pretty often. We haven’t talked about [playing time] too much because we know the situation and that’s the way we’re going to run.”

The situation is Markkanen needs to produce more if the Bulls’ rebuild is going to succeed. It’s as simple as that.

“I’ve had my good moments. I think I’m getting my rhythm back on my shots. Obviously, I can be more aggressive,” Markkanen said. “It’s a different system that we’re running and different kind of spots that my shots are coming from. So it’s a little different. But obviously, I can do more.”

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