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 announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

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USA TODAY

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

If you haven't heard, Neil Funk is cutting 20 road games from his 2018-19 Bulls' play-by-play schedule.

Friday, the Bulls announced that Adam Amin, Andy Demetra and Kyle Draper will fill in for Funk for the first five of those games.

Amin, a play-by-play commentator for ESPN, will games on Oct. 22 against the Mavericks and Nov. 14 against the Celtics. He grew up in Addison, resides in Chicago and also does play-by-play for Bears preseason games.

Demetra is from Oak Brook and currently is the play-by-play broadcaster for Georgia Tech basketball and football. He will call games on Oct. 26 against the Hornets and Oct. 27 against the Hawks. He has previous play-by-play experience with the SEC Network, Pac-12 Network and Fox Sports South.

Draper will call the Bulls' Nov. 7 game against the Pelicans. He is the Celtics' pregame and postgame host for NBC Sports Boston and an occasional play-by-play annoucer and sideline reporter for the Celtics.

The Bulls said they will continue providing updates on substitute broadcasters as they are scheduled.

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

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USA TODAY

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

Finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference last season cost Stan Van Gundy his job as Pistons head coach and President of Basketball Operations. Van Gundy was replaced on the bench by 2017-18 Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, who was fired after the Raptors were swept by Cleveland in the conference semi-finals.

Casey’s job in Detroit is to find a way to develop the young players on the roster while getting the team to the playoffs. He has a pair of All-Star caliber players in the front court, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, along with highly-paid, erratic point guard Reggie Jackson.

Griffin has battled injuries in recent seasons, but Van Gundy decided to roll the dice at mid-season a year ago by trading Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley AND a 1st round pick to the Clippers for the former slam dunk champion in a desperate bid to save his job. The trade didn’t work out for Van Gundy, but it’s possible Griffin could enjoy a resurgence in Detroit this season.

The 29-year-old power forward scored 26 points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out six assists in the Pistons’ 103-100 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Drummond had a monster game with 24 points and 20 rebounds. As Bulls fans know all too well, Drummond has made the 20 rebound game commonplace when facing Fred Hoiberg’s squad in recent years.

As for Jackson, a severely sprained right ankle limited him to just 45 games last season, probably costing Detroit a chance to make the playoffs. The 8th year pro is lightning quick, with the ability to disrupt defenses by getting into the paint and challenging bigger defenders at the rim. Jackson scored 19 points in the season opener against Brooklyn, and he’ll be a problem for the Bulls Saturday night, especially if Kris Dunn is unavailable.

Casey is still trying to figure out how to use the rest of the roster Van Gundy built, with recent 1st round pick Henry Ellenson and former rotation player Jon Leuer getting DNP-CD’s against the Nets. Meanwhile, two other expected rotation players, small forward Stanley Johnson and swingman Reggie Bullock missed the opener because of injuries.

That left second year guard Luke Kennard and 2018 2nd round draft pick Bruce Brown as the other starters in game one, something that’s unlikely to continue once everyone’s healthy.

So, how do the Bulls even their record at 1-1 on Saturday? Here are my three keys:

1. Keep Drummond and Griffin off the offensive boards. This is much easier said than done. Drummond in particular is relentless going after missed shots, and his bulk will cause problems for 19 year old rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Hoiberg hinted at possible line-up changes on Friday morning, which could include starting veteran Robin Lopez at center to battle Drummond inside. Griffin has turned into more of a jump shooter now and doesn’t have the multiple jump capability that characterized his early seasons in the NBA, but he’s still a threat to create 2nd shot opportunities.

2. Close out on three-point shooters. Of all the defensive issues for the Bulls in Philadelphia on Thursday, losing touch with shooters in transition was probably the most troublesome. Robert Covington seemed to be open at the three-point line throughout the game, and Bulls players struggled to handle cross-match situations. Kennard had one of the best games of his rookie season against the Bulls, and Jackson, Ish Smith and Langston Galloway are all capable of heating up from long distance.

3. Attack Detroit’s interior defense. The Bulls were at their best offensively in the first quarter against Philadelphia when they drove to the basket to set up easy scoring chances. Zach LaVine was getting to the rim at will in scoring 15 of his 30 points in the opening 12 minutes, and his penetration also set up Bobby Portis for open looks from the three-point line. Hopefully, Dunn will return to stabilize the point guard position and give the Bulls' first unit another shot creator so they can sustain their pace and scoring potential over four quarters.

Saturday’s home opener is definitely winnable against a Detroit team still finding its way under a new coaching staff. Better effort and attention to detail on the defensive end along with a fast-paced, drive and kick offensive attack should make for an exciting opening night at the United Center.

Make sure to join Kendall Gill, Will Perdue, Kelly Crull and me for a special one hour edition of Bulls Pre-Game Live at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago and the new My Teams app, followed by the play by play call with Neil Funk and Stacey King at 7 p.m. And, stay tuned after the final buzzer for reaction and analysis on an expanded edition of Bulls Postgame Live.