Carlos Boozer needs to shut his mouth and play defense

Written By BY RICK MORRISSEY Sports Columnist Posted: 03/04/2014, 11:32am
Array Bulls forward Carlos Boozer leaps off the bench as Taj Gibson dunks over Dwyane Wade in the first half as the Chicago Bulls defeated the Miami Heat 103-82 in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday May 15, 2011 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Carlos Boozer apparently gets paid by the word.

A Bulls telecast is a competition between the announcers and the power forward with the very loud, very round mouth. Boozer keeps a running commentary going while in the game, shouting out thought after thought, most of it coming through the TV clearly. If he gets a rebound, he screams, ‘‘Gimme dat!’’ If a free throw of his can’t make up its mind whether to go in, he yells, ‘‘Get in there!’’ He says ‘‘Hey!’’ too many times to count.

For much of the night, we get a run-on sentence built on a combination of reflexive utterances and, I suspect, an attempt to give the appearance of total engagement in the game. He talks the best defense in the NBA, despite compelling evidence that he wouldn’t know weak-side help from a tree stump.

But now he has brought different words to the proceedings, and, like the pixels in your TV set, they show true colors. He’s upset that he often finds himself on the bench when the fourth quarter rolls around. Coach Tom Thibodeau wants someone on the floor who can play defense. That would be Taj Gibson, not Boozer. And for all of Gibson’s inconsistency when it comes to outside shooting the last five seasons, he has been better offensively than Boozer in the fourth quarter this season.

Boozer informed reporters of his irritation Monday.

‘‘I think I should be out there, but it’s [Thibodeau’s] choice,’’ he said. ‘‘He makes the decisions out there. I play; I don’t coach. He coaches, so he decides that. But, honestly, he’s been doing that a lot since I’ve been here, not putting me [in the game] in the fourth quarter. Sometimes we win. More times than not, we don’t. But that’s his choice.’’

He went on: ‘‘It’s very frustrating, especially when I’ve got a great game going or what have you. Obviously, as a competitor, you want to be out there to help your team win. Especially when the game is close, you can do things that can help your team win. And not being out there, all you can do is really cheer them on. But that’s [Thibodeau’s] choice.’’

The key phrase in all of that is ‘‘when I’ve got a great game going.’’ It was partly hidden under a blanket of team concerns, but Boozer couldn’t help himself. This is about him. By ‘‘great game,’’ he means ‘‘lots of points.’’

I’m sure he’s perplexed about why this story has blown up the way it has. That’s because he lost his self-awareness somewhere along the way. Let’s be clear: He’s not alone in that regard. The NBA is full of players who can show you scientific proof that the sun revolves around them. But if you told Boozer that he’d be the next mayor of Chicago or that he’d light the torch at the 2016 Olympics, he’d start picking out clothes to wear.

His comments Monday were teed up perfectly for Thibodeau to drive down the fairway. Boozer, of all people, upset that he wasn’t playing in the fourth quarter? Amnesty day can’t come soon enough.

‘‘Sometimes you have to sacrifice what might be best for yourself for what’s best for the team,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘That’s what I love about Taj. Taj could be upset he’s not starting, [but] he never complains. Whatever you ask him to do, he just goes out there and does it. To me, what he does speaks volumes. He’s not talking about it; he’s going out there and doing it.’’

I wish Thibodeau had borrowed from former Bulls coach Scott Skiles, who didn’t miss a beat when a reporter once asked him how Eddy Curry could be a better rebounder.

‘‘Jump,’’ Skiles said.

And Boozer could be a better defender by defending.

Boozer does one thing very well: shoot. He has a high-arching shot that hardly disturbs the net. He’ll get you rebounds, too. But he’s a liability late in games, when defense becomes especially important. We’ve seen it in the postseason. We’ve seen Boozer on the bench, where he belongs. Know this: The Bulls aren’t benching a player making $15.3 million this season out of spite.

The referees in the Bulls-Kings game Monday were the targets of a verbal outburst by Joakim Noah, which is a nice way of saying they were found under several layers of F-bombs. I’m not condoning it, but at least there was meaning and passion behind what Noah said.

And you knew he eventually would stop talking. Imagine that.

Browse More 'Uncategorized'