In the regular season this year Carlos Boozer averaged a respectable 17.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. He hasn’t missed any of the 8 playoff games this post season but is averaging a much less appealing 10 points and 10 rebounds per game. Boozer is receiving criticism from the media and Bulls fans alike for his post season play but maybe it’s the Coach of the Year who deserves the boos for it.
Boozer isn’t known for being a playoff choker so that is not his problem. His playoff career averages are 19 points and 12 rebounds per game which are better than his regular season career averages. It is extremely unlikely that Boozer’s skills have declined this quickly from the regular season to the playoffs. The well documented facts are that Carlos is injured and, among other ailments, his turf toe is preventing him from elevating to score around the basket. Never the stellar defender, he can now hardly keep driving players in front of him and picks up a lot of personal fouls by hacking at defenders in the paint. Coach Thibodeau defends his decision to start him by claiming “His rebounding is critical for us, post presence, people collapse on him, so it opens up a lot of things for everybody. So he’s got to just keep doing what he’s doing. Each day he’ll get better and better.” Boozer is doing exactly what his coach has asked of him but with little success. His rebounds are up slightly from the regular season but most of them are uncontested unlike many of the rebounds Noah fights for on a nightly basis. His playoff scoring was poor before his turf toe injury and it’s getting worse, not better as the playoffs progress. He isn’t drawing double teams but instead gets his lay up and dunk attempts blocked because of his lack of vertical. Despite his poor play, Carlos doesn’t deserve boos from the United Center fans. The Coach of the Year is the one inserting him in the starting lineup when he should be resting or providing minimal back up minutes. Tom could allow someone more capable like Taj Gibson to step into his place. Boo Thibedeau if you’re unhappy with Boozer’s play. Though it won’t change the stubborn way he coaches, at least the displeasure will be directed at the right person.
Tom Thibodeau has been a stubborn coach since he arrived in Chicago. He insisted on starting Keith Bogans at shooting guard. He often plays starters until the final buzzer even when the game is well in hand or too far out of reach. And he over uses an oft-injured player like Loul Deng while refusing to utilize an athletic, somewhat talented guard like Rasual Butler. It should be no surprise that he continues starting an ineffective Boozer because he feels his rebounding and post presence are still a factor. Since the turf toe injury Tom has at least reduced his minutes and given Taj Gibson a bigger role. Similar to Bogans, Boozer now starts the game but isn’t playing starter-type minutes. Don’t forget that the stubbornness Thibodeau has displayed all year did lead the Bulls to 62 wins, the top overall seed in the NBA, a Coach of the Year trophy and an MVP award for his star point guard. Maybe – just maybe – he knows what he is doing and we should all trust his judgment. If you disagree and still believe Boozer needs to ride the bench at least you know where to direct your displeasure.