So many failed experiments, and finally the Chicago Bulls have found their big man.
By my count, I have ten failures by the organization at the power forward position: Elton Brand, Tyrus Thomas, Tyson Chandler, Drew Gooden, PJ Brown, Andres Nocioni, Michael Sweetney, Lonny Baxter, Antonio Davis and Donyell Marshall. Almost all were expected at one point to deliver the franchise a low post presence, and every one of them has been shown the door out of Chicago.
But things are different now. When that magical ping pong ball revealed in May 2008, despite only a 1.7% chance, the Bulls would have the rights to draft Derrick Rose, the search began to surround the talented point guard with sufficient help.
It’s finally here.
Carlos Boozer, the same Alaskan who sent a recruiting video to Mike Krzyzewski because he wasn’t receiving any attention, is the Bulls‘ new $80 million answer to what seemed to be their lingering problem over the past decade – finding a legitimate and versatile post threat.
By Ethan Asofsky and Paul M. Banks
It’s something the Bulls haven’t had since Elton Brand, who never reached his prime in Chicago. Boozer is in his prime. The 28-year old power forward is a double double machine, averaging 19.5 ppg and 11.2 rpg last year. As an ambidextrous shooter, his touch from both sides of the basket is matched by few and he’s able to use it because of his explosion to the basket.
Elite point guards in the league such as Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Steve Nash and Rajon Rondo typically average around 9 or 10 assists per game. Derrick Rose averaged just 6 apg last year. But Williams had Boozer, Chris Paul has David West, Nash had Amare and Rondo has Kevin Garnett. Having a post threat is essential for a point guard, and Boozer’s near perfect skill set for the pick and roll gives Rose the help he will need to bump his average up near the top tier of guards.
Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau echoed that statement.
“It starts with his post-up game, and the thing that often times get overlooked is his ability to pass out of the post, he’s a terrific passer, so when the ball goes in and we cut, those are other opportunities to get easy baskets, it’s not just the fast-break, sometimes it’s the second shot as he’s a great offensive rebounder. But he can go away from the basket , the pick and roll game, the pick and pop, he has great hands and can finish with both hands, also catch-and-shoot…so when you pair him with Derrick, it’s going to be difficult to guard because you’ll have to commit two people to the ball and that opens the floor up for the rest of the guys,” Thibodeau said.
Bulls fans can finally breathe easy when they see a big man taking a mid-range jump shot. Joakim Noah’s jump shot makes Boozer’s mid-range game look like Ray Allen. Pairing up with Boozer down low should open up the lane for Noah, and not force him out of the paint as much as last year.
However, the Bulls will have to wait to see Boozer on the hardwood. Their star acquisition allegedly tripped over a bag and broke his finger. Taj Gibson will fill in as the starter until he returns. Once he does, Gibson has a chance to make a run for 6th man of the year. Last year, Gibson made the first team all rookie squad and now has a talented veteran in Boozer to learn from.
After Boozer decided to come to Chicago, he recruited two of his friends from Utah to join him. The Bulls additions of Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer make them one of the most versatile teams in the league. Korver gives the Bulls the three point threat the front office had hoped Kirk Hinrich would develop into, and Brewer is the kind of athletic defenseman that head coach Tom Thibodeau loves.
At Bulls Media Day Boozer compared his old point guard to his new one.
“They’re both great. They have some similarities and they do have some differences. I think Derrick he may be the most athletic point guard I’ve seen maybe ever. I’ve seen some highlights of him that made me think ‘did he really just do that?’ I saw some incredible things playing alongside Deron for five years in Utah. They’re both great passers, great vision, scoring ability,” Booze said.
While the Bulls on paper might not have the most talented team in the East, they have the ingredients to be the most balanced team. Having three players come from Utah brings added chemistry to a team that was on the cusp of being an elite member of the conference.
The Bulls open the season Wednesday night against the Thunder and although Boozer will be in Giorgio Armani threads instead of Red and Black, it will be interesting to see how a self-proclaimed more mature Rose will play off the sharp shooting Korver.
Many amongst the media still believe that the Bulls are a superstar away from a championship. But Rose is the X factor. This is his year to make that transition. If Rose can make the jump, with Boozer as his aid, the Bulls can contend this year for an NBA championship. No more failed experiments, Boozer is finally the real deal down low.
Much has been made in the media this preseason about how Rose has said he wants to, and thinks he can become, the MVP of the league. Right now, he’s certainly working on all the off-the-court things you need to do to become that iconic player.
“I’m not anywhere near the Jordan brand, but just to be out there, to be in the commercials I think you’ll be seeing me a lot on television this year,” Rose said.
Ethan Asofsky is a beat reporter for the Daily Illini. His profile can be seen here. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank