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.
“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.