Nick Friedell points out at ESPNChicago that Carlos Boozer is closing in on something pretty historic for him: playing every game this season.
"I'm happy to be healthy, especially in this kind of season when there's games almost every day, or traveling every day," he said. "I'm proud of myself; knock on wood and hopefully we can keep it going."
Boozer, who is averaging 15 points and nine rebounds a game this year, admitted that this season has been better than last year's. He played in only 59 regular-season games last year because of various injuries.
"I do," he said. "I think one, being healthy, knocking on wood and two, having chemistry, being able to play with each other. Except for Rip and D. Rose, we've been able to all play together for a lot of minutes out there and get our cohesion going. It's been fun to play with each other again."
The Boozer-Noah frontcourt will never be perfect due to their own unique skills as well as their teammates; No PG can really hit the roll man to the basket, and I think Rip Hamilton's proven to be the team's best post entry-passer already. But they've been very effective in giving the Bulls just enough scoring while absolutely dominating the glass. And as we know, the Bulls have an adaptable coach who is willing to throw in stalwart defensive subs when needed whenever Boozer's feet and brains are in cement, or Joakim Noah's at a strength disadvantage. It's an overall unit that's definitely working.
But the playoffs loom for Boozer, and though he's put in a very good season it's still an unanswered question if he can be counted on for enough offensive production in the playoffs to make up for those famous defensive shortcomings. Six Rings and Counting cherry-picks (by their own admission) some Boozer splits against the best teams in the league:
He’s been great against Boston and Orlando...But remind me who the Bulls are going to have to beat for the title?
4 games vs. Miami: 10.3 points, 8.3 rebounds per game
2 games vs. Indiana: 7.5 points, 7.5 rebounds per game
4 games vs. New York: 13.5 points, 10.0 rebounds per game
3 games vs. Philadelphia: 11.0 points, 7.3 rebounds per game
4 games vs. Atlanta: 14.8 points, 7.0 rebounds per game
(I took out the single-contests against the best of the West from that post, but they look similar)
And if you look at Boozer's playoff history, he's often performed worse than he did in that same regular season:
And now I'll cherry-pick a bit too by pointing out that the time he raised his playoff PER was in only 5 games. Sample-size is a nuisance in this whole exercise, of course, and as we all remember Boozer was hurt going into last season's playoffs. But he's healthy (and proud of it!) now.
Boozer's changed his game to shoot farther from the basket than ever, which is frustrating to watch even when it's working. But it has been working. Yet I don't think it's unfair to still be skeptical of it translating into playoff basketball, when the opposing defenses are better and the stakes raised. Boozer's has had a great comeback season but it also still feels like he's on a short leash: the amnesty provision will be available to the Bulls again this summer and if this playoff run is another dud they'll have the PR cover (the financial implications are a separate post or three) to potentially use it.
I will say I'm feeling far more confident in Boozer than I did last year, and unexpectedly so. But that skepticism is still there that he could be exposed.