Tom Thibodeau, Carlos Boozer

Carlos Boozer not pleased with his frequent fourth-quarter benchings

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Starting lineups get the most attention, and Carlos Boozer has started for the Bulls since signing with them in 2010.

But closing lineups might be more important, and Boozer isn’t part of Chicago’s.

He’s played just 117 fourth-quarter minutes all season – ninth on the team. In fact, he’s nearly as close to 12th-place Derrick Rose (57 fourth-quarter minutes) as he is eighth-place Luol Deng (172), even though neither of those two are playing for the Bulls anymore this season.

Unsurprisingly, Boozer thinks Tom Thibodeau should give him more playing time in fourth quarters.

Boozer, via Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Nah, I think I should be out there, but it’s his choice, he makes the decisions out there, so I play, I don’t coach. He coaches. So he decides that,’’ Boozer said. “But honestly, he’s been doing that a lot since I’ve been here, not putting me in the fourth quarter. Sometimes we win, more times than not we don’t, but that’s his choice.’’

Asked how tough it’s been for him, especially considering Boozer could be an amnesty candidate after this season, Boozer replied, “Super tough, it’s very frustrating, especially when I’ve got a great game going or what have you. Obviously as a competitor you want to be out there to help your team win and especially when the game is close, you can do things that can help your team win. And not being out there, all you could do is really cheer them on, but that’s [Thibodeau’s] choice.’’

“He knows that. He’s aware of that,’’ Boozer replied, when asked if Thibodeau knew he wanted more minutes. “I feel great, body feels great. I think I’m very productive in the limited minutes that I am getting, so I can do even more if I was out there more, but as long as we’re winning that’s the main thing, but yeah, I do want to be out there in the fourth quarter, let’s make that clear.’’

A quick fact check: Chicago is 8-10 when Boozer is healthy and sits out the quarter and 12-13 when he plays the fourth. So, yes, Boozer is correct that the Bulls usually lose when sits out the fourth quarter. But they usually lose when he plays the fourth, too.

That probably doesn’t even show the full disparity. Quite likely, Thibodeau – whose baseline strategy is to bench Boozer for the final period – plays Boozer in the fourth only when the matchup is advantageous. So, while the Bulls are 5-4 when Boozer plays at least six minutes in the fourth quarter, their opponents in those games have a combined winning percentage of .329 (slightly better than the Celtics this season).

Thibodeau is a defensive-minded coach, and it makes sense his default fourth-quarter lineup includes Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson rather than Boozer. We could debate whether Gibson or Boozer is the better player, but there’s no question Gibson is the better defender.

Besides, you know who else wants to play a lot in the fourth quarter? Gibson and Noah. If the Bulls sat either of them for Boozer, they’d just be swapping which player is unhappy.

And make no mistake, Boozer is unhappy. But read his comments a little more closely.

This is exactly how a player who dislikes his role should handle it. He talked to his coach about the issue. He didn’t lie to the media about it. He’s not threatening any repercussions if he doesn’t get his way.

We want honesty from athletes, right? Boozer gave us honesty. He’s a competitor who believes in himself, and he wants more minutes. We can’t seek that honesty and then criticize the the player when he provides, as I’m sure many will do to Boozer.

As far as I’m concerned, Boozer is still a heck of a team player. He’s going to play hard when he gets on the court, and he’s going to cheer for his teammates when he’s off it. It doesn’t mean he has to like how often he does each.

Report: Rockets return Donatas Motiejunas to restricted free agency, working on new contract with him

Donatas Motiejunas, Kenneth Faried
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Rockets had Donatas Motiejunas in a bind.

He was beholden to them on a four-year, $31 million deal and unable to sign with other teams. Motiejunas’ choices: Report for a physical or wait in limbo.

But apparently Houston has allowed him out of that constraint.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

This means Motiejunas can’t sign with the Nets, who signed him to the original offer sheet, for one year.

I bet it also means Motiejunas and Houston have agreed to a new contract. Otherwise, why release him from the offer sheet? The Rockets would be giving up a tremendous amount of leverage out of the goodness of their hearts – unless this is just a prelude to a new deal with Houston.

John Wall pushes down Jusuf Nurkic from behind in retaliation (video)

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John Wall didn’t like how Jusuf Nurkic bumped him, so Wall shoved the Nuggets center from behind and sent him to the floor.

An overreaction to the bump? Probably. Wall got hit with a technical foul.

But I’m mostly just impressed Wall was strong enough to push over Nurkic.

DeMar DeRozan throws down massive dunk against Timberwolves (VIDEO)

derozan
AP
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DeMar DeRozan is having one of those seasons for the No. 2 team in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors. During Thursday night’s win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, 124-110, DeRozan scored 27 points while adding eight rebounds, five assists, and shooting a whopping 13 free throws.

DeRozan also sealed the victory in the final minute with a huge put back dunk.

The Raptors led by 9 points with a minute left as they were inbounding the ball. A long pass from the baseline to a streaking DeMarre Carroll resulted in a blocked layup, but DeRozan was there to clean up the mess.

Via CJZero on Twitter:

Three things we learned Thursday: Memphis, Marc Gasol just win every close game

Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) shoots between Portland Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu, from left, center Mason Plumlee, and forward Jake Layman (10) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
Associated Press
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Here’s what you missed Thursday around the NBA while you were drinking homemade glow-in-the-dark beer with jellyfish genes in it (no, you try it first, I insist)…

1) Don’t play Memphis in a close game, they just find a way to win.
Last week, when Mike Conley went down with a back injury and was going to miss six weeks (give or take), we questioned if Memphis could keep their heads above water. They promptly went out and lost to a very good Toronto team.

Since then they have won five in a row, capped by an impressive 88-86 win over Portland Tuesday. Impressive because:

• Memphis is now 12-0 in games that were within 3 points in the final minute. You get in a close game with Memphis, you lose. (Statistically, we know some of that is luck, that there will be some regression to the mean, but that stat has propelled a team has been outscored by nine points this season, one that should be 12-12, to the 16-8 record they have.)

• Memphis trailed Portland 79-68 with less than five minutes to go, and still won.

Marc Gasol had 36 points and has been an absolute beast since Conley went down, doing whatever it takes to win.

• Toney Douglas — a guy the Grizzlies just picked up off the street this week, basically — comes in and is clutch down the stretch for them, including hitting the game-winning free throws with 0.5 seconds left (Damian Lillard tried to argue the call, to no avail).

The schedule gets tough for Memphis the next couple of weeks — Golden State, home-and-home with Cleveland, then Boston and Utah looming not long after — but do not doubt the Grizzlies. No team is as resilient as this bunch.

2) Bulls prove Spurs aren’t perfect on the road. It was bound to happen, the San Antonio Spurs were 13-0 on the road, they were going to stumble at some point. That point turned out to be Thursday night in Chicago, where the Spurs came out of the gate like they went out and had a big pregame meal of Lou Malnati’s pizza — 32 points on 30.6 percent shooting in the first half for San Antonio. The Spurs didn’t defend poorly, for example Kawhi Leonard held Jimmy Butler to no first-half points — in fact, midway through the first quarter Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez had scored almost all the Bulls’ buckets — but the San Antonio offense was dreadful. Throw a little credit to the Chicago defense if you want, but this was more San Antonio stumbling than a Chicago return to the Thibodeau era.

The Bulls were up 12 at the half and were able to hang on despite a strong second 24 minutes from Leonard (17 of his 24 came in the second half) and get the win. Dwyane Wade had 20 points and hit a couple of key buckets late to stabilize Chicago. For a Bulls team that is going to be in a playoff battle all season — they are the seven seed right now, one game ahead of the Pacers in ninth — these kinds of wins at home can prove huge.

3) What is it with Minnesota and second half? On the road, the Minnesota Timberwolves had played the Toronto Raptors even for the first 24 minutes — it was 59-59 at the half. And yet, there was a sense of dread for Timberwolves fans because all season their young team has just come apart in the third quarter — and then Toronto opened the second half on an 11-2 run. Minnesota, to their credit, crawls back into it, but midway through the fourth the Raptors go on a 17-4 run sparked by Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, and the Raptors pull away for the 124-110 win. The Timberwolves lost another game because they can’t defend well.

Minnesota shows flashes of the kind of brilliance that has everyone thinking they might be a contender in a few years. But we all expected too much too soon from this group. Those impressive stretches are followed by ones where they play like a young team, they don’t defend well, and they throw those good efforts away. Not that they were going to beat a good Toronto team on the road, but the Timberwolves can be frustrating to watch. Patience is hard, and Minnesota fans are being asked to show a lot of it. We can debate if it’s time to bring Ricky Rubio off the bench and let Kris Dunn sink or swim, but that’s not the core problem. Ultimately, the Timberwolves are young and playing like it. They don’t know how and aren’t putting in the effort to defend well yet. Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, they can be the core of a contender eventually, but there is a lot of learning to do along the way. Tom Thibodeau can teach them. But it’s going to require patience.