Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010
Updated 9:17 AM
By Aggrey Sam
After an almost two-month waiting period, Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer returned to practice Monday for the first time since breaking his right fifth metacarpal almost two months ago. Boozer wouldnt firmly commit to playing in the teams next gameChicago hosts the Orlando Magic at the United Center Wednesdaybut did say it was a possibility.
Im going to see how it feels each day, said Boozer after the teams practice at the Berto Center. Well see how it feels on Wednesday.
I think Ill know with how it reacts, how it responds in the morning, how it feels before the games, as we work out, at the practice. If the pain and the swelling isnt there, Ill play, continued Boozer, who confirmed that the decision of when to play in actual game lies with him now that hes medically cleared to play. Im really excited. I think Im right there. Im looking forward to getting over that hump and hopefully getting a chance to put my jersey on.
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was cautiously optimistic about the offseason acquisitions progress.
He looked fine. He was very active. He didnt have any problems with the contact. He was in great shape, which encouraging. He shot the ball well. Were not quite sure if hell go on Wednesday. Well see how it goes tomorrow and the shootaround on Wednesday, but for the first day, it was very good, said Tom Thibodeau. He was very aggressive, he was attacking, hes played very good defense and he wasnt shying away from contact, so it was very encouraging.
Once hes ready, hes going to go right into the starting lineup. I just feel that will make our adjustment time much quicker. I think hell be fine, he continued. Hes obviously a very established player in this league. It gives us a quality low-post player. It gives us another pick-and-roll player and hes been a terrific rebounder. The thing that I really like is that he can really pass the ball, so any time you can add somebody that can pass, that quality makes everyone else better.
Aside from Boozers talent and the added dimensions he brings to the table, however, Thibodeau doesnt see the Bulls being a much different team.
I dont think anythings going to change, just in terms of how were going to play, style of play. It adds a quality big man and it gives us more depth up front, said Thibodeau. I think it puts a lot of pressure on the defense, particularly with the pick-and-roll. When you put those two players in the pick-and roll, youre going to have to defend more than one player, so any time you can put two defenders onto the ball, it makes easy offense for others. And Carlos has great versatility. Hes got the low-post component, where he can score. Hes also a very good passerwe have very good cuttersthats another way we can get easy baskets. He runs the floor extremely well. He also give us the catch-and-shoot phase.
Continued Thibodeau: Were going to continue to add to the Bulls offense, but we put quite a bit in initially because we thought he would be a big part of our offense from the start. Carlos has been very good from the time that hes been out. Hes been here early going over our offense with our early group, so hes familiar with everything that weve been doing.
The one thing our team has done well is were gang rebounding. I think our guards are starting to rebound better. Derricks rebounding a lot better, Luols rebounding better, so I think it should help our rebounding.
Although Boozer hasnt been able to fully participate, hes been a diligent student of Thibodeaus system and believes his on-court adjustment will be seamless.
Ive been able to be in almost every practice, Ive been able to watch us play in the games, Ive been talking to the guys, Ive been talking to Thibs. My mind has always been there, I just havent been able to be there physically. So, now that Im out there physically, the adjustments the same. Were a defense-first team, we play inside-out, play unselfish we gang reboundvery good rebounding team alreadyand were trying to improve, so from that perspective, I think its an easy transition because thats what were going to do no matter whos in a Bulls uniform, said Boozer. You learn a lot from watching. Youre put in a new system, whether youre playing in the system, which most of the guys have or youre watching like I was, youre still learning the system, so I was able to learn a lot from the sideline. Im looking forward to putting some of that out there when I get back.
Boozer said the after-effects of his first full-contact practice to his injury were minimal and that he believes hes on pace.
There were a couple times it got hit, which was good, to see how it felt after it got hit. A little sore, but overall, I thought it was a good day, said Boozer, who wore a protective glove. I dont think I was too far behind.
Ive been watching every dayIve been going through the plays ever since I got my cast off, he added. I come in early, go through the plays with the coaches, some of the players. Now that Ive been able to get the handcuffs off a little bit, Ive been going through a lot more, so I feel very comfortable with our offense.
While Boozer didnt say he was 100 percent, he did indicate hes made a lot of progress recently.
I thought I did a good job working hard out there. I did a good job shooting the ball. My wrist is getting a lot stronger, which is important to me after sitting for five weeks with the wrist being in the cast, explained Boozer. When I first started shooting, it would get really fatigued really fast because it wasnt used to following through, but its getting stronger every day.
Boozer, who played with an All-Star point guard in Utah, Deron Williams, believes hell develop a similar chemistry in Chicago with Derrick Rose.
I think itll be right there the moment we step out there. Weve talked about it a lot this whole season, said Boozer. Ive been telling him, people are going to double team him because hes dominating right now, so hes going to get a lot of double teams.
I think it will be really easy. Ive been playing pick-and-roll for a long time. Im really looking forward to it.
Said Thibodeau: They did have opportunity to play some in training camp and in the fall, so theyll adjust quickly. They actually looked pretty good today.
Thibodeau also discussed how Boozers return will affect his rotation.
I dont think itll impact Taj Gibson that much, other than he wont be starting. Taj is still going to play a significant role and get a lot of minutes for us, said Thibodeau, who plans to use Boozer in seven and eight-minute increments upon his return to game action.
Speaking of Gibson, the second-year forward missed Mondays practice to rest his sore right ankle and is day-to-day, according to Thibodeau.
Carlos and Taj can play together. Of course, Carlos and Jo, Jo and Taj. Omer complements them. So, theres a lot of different things that we can do. I think Luol has proven that hes capable of moving to the four. I like our depth up front a lot. I think it allows us to play a lot more aggressively also, the coach added. Right now, I think Luols played more minutes than we would like. Hes played a lot of four for us. I do like Luol at the four, but it will allow us to get Luol more rest.
Boozers teammates are certainly anxious to see him come back.
We have a tough schedule coming up and its great to have one of our aces back, said Bulls center Joakim Noah. Hes really hungry. I think hes ready to get out there. Hes excited.
He looked really good. I thought with taking off so much time, I thought he might be a step slow, but he looked like he hadnt lost a step. He got stronger from working out, his conditioning was there and to me, when we get him back, hes going to be a huge factor on this team. Its good to get him back and I think hes going to really help our team out, reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer, who also played with Boozer in Utah, told CSNChicago.com. Whenever you have somebody out and they come backwhenever you have a new person in the lineupits going to take some time. Its going to be an adjustment. You have to have time to build chemistry. We still need Taj to be out there.
Early in the season, I think Taj stepped his game up and teams didnt really expect it. With him, Booz and Joakim down there, its going to be tough for them, he continued. With Lu and myself being able to slash, Kyle knocking down 3-point shots and then D. Rose, its going to be a tough team to defend.
Its going to help everybody out because hes going to draw so much attention. When he sets screens, its going to allow D. Rose to turn the corner. When he makes the pocket pass, hes going to be able to knock shots down and shoot it with confidence and myself and all the other guys back-door cutting, hes going to be able to pass the ball. Hes a very unselfish player, very high basketball I.Q. and hes going to allow guys to play off him.
Still, as nice as adding Boozer sounds on paper, the question of chemistry is the lingering issue. As Noah asked the media, Isnt that the question that everybodys dying to know?
Boozer wouldnt commit to returning Wednesday When my hands ready and itll be my decision, was his official stancebut talked extensively enough about the Bulls opponent that night, Orlando, to stir up some speculation.
Theyre a great team. Theyre a championship-caliber team. They kicked our butt in the preseason. We havent forgot; thats why I brought it up, said Boozer. We look forward to playing against them. We get a chance to see how good we are against them.
But will he suit up against Dwight Howard and the Magic. To quote Noah again, Well, youll just have to wait and see.
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.