Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010
By Aggrey Sam
Patience is a virtue. In the case of Carlos Boozer's Bulls debut, nobody understands that better than current and former teammates Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer.
"Well, its going to be a little different this time because before, he was coming into a system he already knew inside and out, and theres a little new stuff here," Korver told CSNChicago.com after Wednesday night's loss to the Magic. "Its one thing to see and watch in a game, but to be out there doing it is different. Hes a pretty smart basketball player, so hopefully hell it wont take too long."
"Its not a certain timetable. Any athlete or some people that cover the game know that basketballs a game of rhythm, so the sooner you can pick it up, the sooner you can get in the flow," added Brewer, who played with Boozer in Utah from 2006-07 until last season, when he was dealt to Memphis at the trade deadline. "With him, its a whole new city, whole new system, teammates. You watch them play, but youve got to get used to being on the court, playing at game speed and competing at a high level like he does, facing great talents night in and night out."
It's no secret that Boozer's tenure in Utah was riddled with injuries, as he missed significant time in three of his six seasons (missing 138 regular-season games) with the Jazz. Boozer's 2004-05 campaign was curtailed after 51 games and he only played in 33 games in the subsequent 2005-06 after returning to the lineup in the middle of the season, so perhaps his last injury-plagued season in Salt Lake City best illustrates what the Bulls can expect.
Boozer went out of the Jazz lineup on Nov. 19, 2008, and returned on Feb. 23, 2009, following arthroscopic knee surgery. In his first game back, he recorded two points and five rebounds, not dissimilar to Wednesday's five-point, two-rebound outing.
His next few games showed gradual improvement--12 points and four boards on Feb. 25, six and five on Feb. 28, 10 and nine on March 1--before a breakout performance on March 4, 2009, his fifth game back, when he notched a more Boozer-like 20 points and 17 rebounds.
"You never know with him. Hes a top-tier player in the league, so next game he might have his rhythm back. It might be a week, it might be two weeks, it might be three weeks," Brewer told CSNChicago.com. "Hes a high-talent guy. Even though hes been working hard off the floor, I still think youve got to get your legs back, your conditioning back and your rhythm shooting the ball, and when that comes back, I think youll know the answer about the timetable because hell be a 20-and-10 guy again.
"From Boozs standpoint, he wants to come in and kind of fit in. At the same time, hes got people expecting him to put up big numbers. Its a bit of a tricky thing to do, but the biggest thing is to get comfortable as fast as you can. Thats going to happen through practice and watching film," said Korver, who was traded to Utah from Philadelphia midway through the 2007-08 season. "His first game back was Orlandothats going to be a tough matchup for anyone, regardlessand thats your first basketball game in two months. Its been a long time since he played in a game, so that plus the fact that hes had a broken hand."
Although Boozer claimed his conditioning was fine, he admitted to reporters the difference between practice speed and game speed caught him by surprise. In addition, as his teammates mentioned, learning a new system will take an adjustment and even though by all accounts he's been a diligent pupil during his absence, he appeared to be a step behind on both ends--in fairness, the entire squad seemed out of sync, possibly due to trying to accommodate Boozer and vice versa--during certain points of the Orlando loss.
"Booz, hes hard on himself and he expects great things. He told me, I feel like I need to go out there and score 20 points and 10 rebounds every game, and I was like, Booz, I know youre capable of doing that and youre that type of player, but youve got to take it one game at a time, one possession at a time and try to make positive plays whether its on the offensive end or the defensive end,'" revealed Brewer. "Overall, as a whole, we didnt play well as a team and that puts a lot of pressure on him, his first game back because we kind of put ourselves in a hole quick. I think everybody was kind of pressing their game to make something happen, try to get a 20-point play on one play and you cant do that in basketball. Were going to get better, were going to work on it in practice and I think hes going to get better, as well."
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.