NBA AM: Boozer Is The Glue Guy For Chicago
The Glue Guy: In the NBA there are some guys who bring it all together. Guys who bridge the gaps, fill the voids and help bring the individuals in a locker room together to become better than they are individually. Kendrick Perkins does it in Oklahoma City with the Thunder. Chauncey Billups does it in LA with the Clippers and Tyson Chandler does it in New York with the Knicks.
From the day the Chicago Bulls landed forward Carlos Boozer as a free agent in the summer of 2010, Bulls fans have been trying to either trade him or get him cut by way of the NBA’s Amnesty provision. Boozer has become the guy most mentioned in trades and the guy most talked about as being part of the Bulls’ problem.
What’s often overlooked and generally never talked about is Boozer’s impact inside the locker room and his value to the team beyond what he logs in the box score.
“Coming here is different than being in Utah, “ Boozer told HOOPSWORLD. “It took me a little bit to adjust. But for most part, the more we’ve played, the better we’ve all been. I think in Utah we were there for six years, same group of guys for four years, the flow was easy. Here, it’s a new system, different group of guys, very talented. We have a talented group and our offense is different. It’s not just me and D-Will (Deron Williams), we got a 20 point per game guy [pointing to Richard Hamilton], 20 per game guy [pointing to Loul Deng], 30 point per game guy [pointing to Derrick Rose], we got a lot more scorers then we had in Utah.
“Everybody looks at the scoring point of it and all I care about is winning. The great thing about our team is it doesn’t matter who scores because our rebounding brings us success because our defensive rebounding is always there.”
Boozer had a down year last year, leading most to believe he’d be traded if the Bulls could find a taker, even though the Bulls never considered moving him.
So far this season Boozer has been more aggressive and is trying to fill some of gaps created by Rose’s knee injury and subsequent rehab. Boozer points to the cohesiveness of his team as a key reason Chicago has stayed in the playoff mix in the East without their star player.
“People forget we’re playing without our MVP,” explained Boozer. “[We’ve] played without our All-Star center [Joakim Noah]. You see how guys step up and we come together, it doesn’t matter what happens, we’re up by 18, things are rolling, things start coming back, we stay together no matter what. I think that’s the mark of our team, we’re very resilient and we ride for each other.
“Our team chemistry is so amazing. This team is like a college team as far as our chemistry is concerned. We all go out together, we eat together. We win and lose together. We have a bad game, everybody is circling the wagons and picking each other up and when we have great game everybody celebrates no matter who has a great game or who doesn’t. We have a fun group man, I think people overlook that.”
Boozer’s role as veteran leader is a big part of that. Boozer is “the includer” that brings guys together. He is the teammate that challenges younger guys to play better or to play beyond themselves. It started with Rose and has continued with Taj Gibson and Noah and even second year forward Jimmy Butler.
The Bulls are sitting at 17-13 on the season, which is good enough for fifth place in the East. Last year’s MVP Rose is still rehabbing his surgically repaired knee, but has recently started traveling with the team and doing walkthroughs in practice, signaling that his return to action is near.
For Boozer’s part, he believes that once the Bulls get healthy, they’ll be in a real position to challenge anyone in the East.
“People just see the name on the front, the Bulls, and they think we’re just going to go and beat teams by 20,” joked Boozer. “It’s the NBA. Every team is talented, it’s not that simple and we’re missing a lot.
“When we’re completely healthy, I think we’re as good as anybody in the league… All I’m going to say is watch out.”
The Bulls have been winning roughly 60 percent of their games without Rose in the lineup; it’s hard not to believe in Boozer’s enthusiasm about what his return could mean to the team.
The Bulls say there is no timetable for Rose’s return, but one thing is clear Boozer is providing a lot of leadership both on and off the court and that’s why he’s still a Chicago Bull.
Jimmy’s Chance: Bulls forward Jimmy Butler has one of those awe inspiring stories. He was abandoned as a young child, taken in and cared for by a loving family who made him one of their own. Butler overcame every obstacle possible and was ultimately drafted into the NBA in the first round by an iconic franchise.
Butler didn’t play much as a rookie, but as a sophomore the Bulls are going to their young guy a lot more and he is getting a chance to prove he belongs.
Jimmy talked with HOOPSWORLD about his second season in the NBA and getting a chance to play for the Bulls.
The Kings and DeMacus Cousins: For the record the Sacramento Kings are telling inquiring teams that they are not interested in trading troubled center DeMarcus Cousins.
The Kings have been consistent in that message and have mirrored it to the press. That’s not going to stop the trade rumors, and it’s certainly not going to calm the situation, but that’s where the Kings stand today.
Cousins has anger management issues. It’s one of the key reasons he was available to the Kings with the fifth overall selection in 2010. The Kings knew it when they drafted him and they hoped as he matured that it would get better as he had success in the NBA.
The reality of the situation is all of the losing and constant upheaval in Sacramento have made the problem worse, not better.
Cousins’ latest verbal tirade at head coach Keith Smart is supposedly water under the bridge now. The two sides have talked through the issue and Cousins has pledged to be a better team mate.
The problem with that is this wasn’t Cousins’ first or second outburst, and it’s certainly not an isolated incident kind of thing. This is who Cousins is, for better or for worse.
There seems to be inevitability to the Kings needing to part ways with Cousins. It seems that he simply isn’t going to grow out of these issues and it’s become clear that he won’t seek help for his anger problems.
The Kings continue to say that trading away Cousins just isn’t on the table, and that may very well be true, but the question becomes can Kings ever get out of the rut they are in as a franchise with Cousins and his anger as a focal point of the team?
Word in NBA circles is that major change is coming to the Kings this summer when current team president Geoff Petries’ contract expires and new management will be brought in.
There is no doubting Cousins ability on the court, but as the Kings try and find a way to come together and compete, trading Cousins may be the only option to achieve that goal.
The Kings say they are not trading Cousins. The question is how long will they hold that line and how many more strikes does the team give him before pulling the trigger on a deal? And, what’s Cousins really worth if his anger issues are getting worse not better?
The Kings are 12-20 so far on the season and look poised for a seventh-straight NBA lottery bound season.
Blame The Coach Not The Player: Most NBA fans don’t associate the word “defense” with Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire. Despite reasonable rebounding numbers, Stoudemire is known more for his offense than his defense, and while for years he’s tried to deflect that notion, this week he admitted that he’s never had a coach that taught defense as a principal.
“I think having a defensive coach for the first time in my career is going to help,” Stoudemire said to Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News. “I’ve never been taught defense in my whole career. So to now have a coach who actually teaches defense and teaches strategies and knows positioning and posture and how to guard different plays, it’s going to be helpful.
“I’m taking it as a challenge. I’m going to accept the challenge. And I’m going to try to improve as a player.”
The Knicks have made their mark on the 2012-13 NBA season on the defensive side of the ball, holding opponents to just 97 points per game and notching one of the better scoring deferentials in the East.
With Stoudemire poised to play an ever increasing role for the Knicks, his commitment and progression on defense is going to be a key.
As they say, the first step to getting past a problem is admitting that you have one. It seems Stoudemire has come to grips with his flaws, the question is can he change them?
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