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Bulls fans don’t figure to have warm welcome for Carlos Boozer

Carlos Boozer’s last name always has travelled.

In his home arena with the crowd behind him: “Boooooze.”

In a visiting arena where his act wears thin and comes across as disingenuous: “Booooo.”

It takes a trained ear to hear the difference. Or, as in Joakim Noah’s case, an ear that chooses to hear what it wants to hear.

“Well, we won’t really know because we won’t know if it’s ‘Booze’ or ‘boo,’ you know?” Noah said when asked about the pending reception from Bulls fans Thursday. “It’s ‘Booze’ to me.”

He could be in the minority.

On Christmas night, Boozer returns to the United Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. But the 33-year-old power forward never really felt at home there.

Maybe it was because Boozer was the consolation prize in the “Summer of LeBron” in 2010. Maybe it was because he seemed to shrink in key moments of games. Maybe it was the false-hustle yelling — “Gimmie dat!” — on rebounds. Whichever annoyance it was, his act had little staying power with Bulls fans.

By the fourth year of his five-year, $82 million contract, he had little staying power with coach Tom Thibodeau, who all but benched him in the fourth quarter of games.

Their relationship deteriorated as the 2013-14 season went on, but Thibodeau wants that left in the past.

“When you look at what he did over his time here, he won a lot of games,” Thibodeau said when asked how Boozer should be received by Bulls fans. “I said this many times, he was a lightning rod for us, but he was very productive. Almost a double-double every night, and we won. That’s the biggest thing.”

When asked why he thought Boozer never was embraced, Thibodeau shifted the focus to why Boozer should have been.

“I have great respect for him because of the situation we were in,’’ Thibodeau said. “The first year, I believe we had the best record and got to the Eastern Conference finals. The second year was the lockout year, the same thing [best record], and then we took the two injuries on in the playoffs. And then we had to battle like crazy just to keep it afloat, and he was in the middle of that. He wouldn’t let it sink. So I have great respect for what he did and what he meant to our team.’’

Boozer was of great value to the Bulls in his first year, when he averaged 17.5 points, 9.6 rebounds and 31.9 minutes per game. But last season, his numbers fell to 13.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 28.2.

Unable to trade Boozer last summer because of the $16.8 million left on his contract, the Bulls simply paid him to go away, using the amnesty provision. The Lakers won the auction for Boozer with a $3.25 million bid, and now he’s their problem.

“As far as us and the relationship we had, he’s a great, great dude, great teammate,’’ Derrick Rose said. “The way Chicago looked at him was he didn’t hustle hard and all that, and they didn’t like the way that he played, but it’s to each his own. He’s somewhere else right now. He’s trying to still keep his career going. I haven’t even watched him as much as I’ve wanted to, but I don’t know how [the fans are] going to accept him when he comes back.

“Who knows? But I just know that they’re really excited about our team.’’

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @suntimes_hoops