(WSCR) – Carlos Boozer wasn’t one of the “big three” free agents over the off-season. However, from the way things have gone this season, the Bulls might be better off with Boozer. The Bulls are playing great basketball right now and the addition of Boozer will provide them with a great low-post scorer. Boozer will make the decision whether or not he will play, a decision that will more than likely be a “game-time decision.”
Both the Orlando Magic and the Chicago Bulls sit atop their respective divisions, making for an intriguing first meeting between two Eastern Conference contenders.
Adding Carlos Boozer to the mix could make the matchup even more enticing.
A broken hand has delayed Boozer’s Chicago debut for more than a month, but the two-time All-Star could be in the lineup Wednesday night as the Bulls return home from their lengthy circus trip hoping to deny the Magic a fifth straight win.
Chicago (9-6) missed out on signing LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh but was thrilled to add Boozer, giving the team a proven low-post scorer and Derrick Rose one more option to look for under the hoop.
Boozer, however, tripped over a bag in his apartment prior to the preseason, leaving him with a broken fifth metatarsal and the Bulls without a player who’s averaged a career double-double.
Boozer practiced Monday and Tuesday for the first time since suffering the injury Oct. 2. Coach Tom Thibodeau seemed very optimistic Boozer would make his Bulls debut against the Magic (13-4), but the power forward himself wouldn’t quite commit.
“I’m going to see how it feels each day,” Boozer said Monday. “… Do treatment every day, twice a day, maybe three times a day. We’ll see how it feels on Wednesday before the game.”
Even if Boozer’s debut doesn’t come until Friday at Boston, he’s not expecting much of an adjustment period with his new teammates.
“(The chemistry) will be right there the moment we step out there together,” Boozer said. “We’ve been talking about it this whole season. People are going to double-team (Rose). He is dominating right now. As soon as they double him, you just try to move to that open area.”
Rose missed Friday’s 98-97 loss at Denver with a neck injury, but returned with a bang Saturday at Sacramento. The former rookie of the year had 30 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in a 96-85 victory – his fifth 30-point performance in six games on the trip.
“I think he’s the best point guard in the league right now,” Luol Deng said after finishing with 22 points. “He can carry us a lot. He makes all of us better players.”
Rose will want to be careful when he ventures into the lane against Orlando’s Dwight Howard, though. Hard fouls by the two-time defensive player of the year sent Rose out of the Bulls’ last two meetings with the Magic, which Orlando won by a combined 49 points.
If Rose can stay on the floor Wednesday, Chicago should feel good about its chances coming off a 4-3 circus trip – its first winning record on the annual two-week journey since Michael Jordan retired.
The Bulls are 5-1 at the United Center, and they’ve shown little rust in the first game back from their trip in recent years. Since 2003-04, Chicago is 6-1 in its first post-circus home contest.
That record will be tested Wednesday. Orlando has won four straight, including its past three by 11 points apiece after Tuesday’s 90-79 victory against Detroit.
Beginning in Chicago, though, the Magic play seven of eight on the road.
“We’ll find out a lot about ourselves going forward in these next couple weeks,” coach Stan Van Gundy said.
Boozer averaged 22.4 points in his last eight games against Orlando with Utah, but Wednesday’s key matchup might be between Howard and Chicago’s Joakim Noah, who went head-to-head just once last season. Each player finished with nine points in a 101-93 Bulls win on Jan. 2, when Rose had a game-high 30 points.
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