Bernstein: Boozer’s Bad Defense To Test Thibs

By Dan Bernstein–

After sitting out the entire fourth quarter last night and watching his teammates lose in New Jersey, Carlos Boozer told reporters “It was a coaching decision.”

Well, obviously.

Tom Thibodeau tried to explain the benching as a result of the Nets’ zone defense and the success of the lineup against it that used Luol Deng as a big, but that rings hollow to anyone who watched the game.

Boozer got torched in half-court sets by weakside baseline cuts and duck-ins by both Kris Humphries and rookie Derrick Favors. He was slow to show hard in screen-roll, and slow to recover to his man. He was outraced down the floor for a week’s worth of alley-oop finishes.

Thibodeau has unwavering expectations for effort on defense, and this is going to be an issue.

“If Boozer is going to get to be a better player in this league, he’s got to step up to those challenges, and accept them, to be able to hold his own. That’s how he’s got to grow. I think he’s better than he was maybe a month-and-a-half ago in those situations, but he’s got to accept those challenges and say ‘Hey, you’re not going to score on me,’ because he’s got the body and quickness. He shows quickness with his offense – and it has to be there defensively.”

That was Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, in the Salt Lake City Deseret News. From an article on January 10, 2005.

“Boozer’s got to work more on his defense. He can’t step out on the floor and expect to get 19, 20 points a game, and his man’s getting 22 or 23. I told him he’s got to do a better job defensively. And he can do a better job. That’s the great thing about it. He can do a better job. But he’s got to make a commitment to defending. Otherwise, I don’t think we can win with that.”

That was Sloan in the same newspaper, on October 15, 2006.

Boozer is 29, now, and is probably exactly the player he is going to be. Whether or not the occasional benching reminds him to try harder at this stage of his career is unknown, as is the degree to which his current coach will tolerate the weak aspect of his game to reap the benefits of his scoring and rebounding.

Thibodeau has arrived at his first major challenge as an NBA head coach, and is handling it curiously at the outset by choosing not to be fully honest about why he sat Boozer down. Why hide behind the smaller-lineup reasoning when the opportunity is there to be clear about your standards for defense?

Try your best to stay with your man and adhere to our defensive principles or you don’t play, regardless of how much we paid for you. That’s the message to a developing team with title aspirations. Thibodeau may not feel comfortable escalating the conflict with words echoing those of the flinty, plain-spoken Sloan, but you can bet he’s thinking it.

Joakim Noah’ s eventual return will help. So perhaps that’s part of the calculation, since another defender at the rim can backstop softness elsewhere on the floor. Boozer’s lapses may be both less obvious and less detrimental then, and we have not seen the two of them as the starting 5-4 combo enough to be fully aware of how it’s going to work.

A disgruntled, expensive veteran, a rookie head coach, and an MVP-candidate point guard on a first-place team.

The Bulls’ season just started.

More from Dan Bernstein
  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Tough way for Da Boo to lose last night.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    I assume that Thibs will address this in practice.

    In a totally unrelated note, time is slipping away from the Hawks.

  • rubs93

    Sit his ass down if he isnt going to buy into the system! There is no reason why those garbage 4’s from NJ should be dominating against any of the Bulls 4’s. I dont care if Coach Thibbs explains it to the media as long as Boozer gets the message. Better to sacrifice a game in Jan against NJ than a meaningful playoff game in May

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      excellent point about January vs. May

  • General Soreness

    Great job, Bernstein. I was thinking the same thing while watching the game last night.

  • Chris in Scottsdale

    Why was he not honest with the press?

    Because there’s no reason to throw a player under the bus when things in the bigger picture are fine. I have no problem with Thibs addressing the matter with the player (which I hope he does), and blowing off the press. We know NBA egos can suddenly get fragile.

    • Likquid Swordz


      Boozer just signed a 5 year deal and you want Thibs to cause friction in the media at the start of their FIRST SEASON?! That was just a stupid statement by Dan. It is not the athletes/coaches highest priority is to answer media questions.

      • bigtime sucker

        yeah i hate it when the press gets on their high horse and think that they are some sort of lithmus test of the character of a player and or a coach. A lot of fans and media want lovie gone for how he treats the press. HUH? Does that have any indication on how he treats his players? Does his lack of explinations to us mean he is holding his film sessions in the same non specifici way? I don’t’ think his record reflects that at all. One thing last night’s bulls game probably did highlight is the need for another shooter. you can defend your way back into a game but to win it, you need to make shots and we need one more player who can create and make his own shots.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        good catch CIS


    The Bulls arrived in Newark at around 4a (ET) last night, but that’s no excuse in my opinion. The fact that Carlos Boozer was benched in the final 14 minutes doesn’t bother me as much as this team continues to stink at the free throw line. If they want to challenge the Celtics & Heat for top honors in the Eastern Conference, they better learn how to shoot free throws and now! 20/30 won’t get it done. The loss to the Nets better serve as a wakeup call that even the Bulls can’t play to the level of their competition and continue to win night after night. Head coach Tom Thibodeau’s expecting much better from the getgo and it better start in Philadelphia Friday night.

    • bigtime sucker

      yeah a problem that a high winning percentage can mask in january but needs to show improvement by march/april or that could cost them a playoff series for sure!!!

  • bronzo

    I agree Chris there was no reason to throw Boozer under the bus. I ‘m pretty sure it wiil be addressed at practice.

    Also Blackhawks are in trouble…their power play is pahtetic on both sides.

  • bigtime sucker

    Here’s a couple of things here. A) I don’t believe Boozer’s defense has been that bad(not great either, simply adequate) over the course of the season. I don’t believe he could be THAT bad and have the Bulls hold teams to 42% shooting. Last night was an unfortunate aberration, an aberration that you can’t afford against the NETS. The bulls should have been up 20 going into the 4th, not down 20. You have to approach ALL these games against lesser teams the same way. Play hard for 36 mins and rest in the fourth. He SHOULD have been benched as a reward for being ahead, not as a punishment for being part of the reason you are behind. This team needs to get that approach more consistently. That is part of the success Michael’s teams had, that Kobe’s teams have and Miami and Boston have now.

    On Bernsy’s comments about Thib’s lack of comments and then using Sloans comments as proof that this isn’t a new issue. Remember one thing Dan, Sloan when he made those comments had been the coach of the Jazz for well over a decade. He had coached Stockton and Malone. He had his team in the playoffs time and time again had been to conference finals and 2 NBA finals. In other words, he had a track record that afforded him the comfort of making such public statements. Thibs has what, 35 games under his belt as head coach? He had the gumption to make the move, but he doesn’t have the public equity to call a player out through the media. That would not be a smart move at this point in his head coaching career.

  • mad as hell fan....

    What I got from last night’s game is that Deng still is a mental midget in the 4th qtr offensively. He is a scared puppy with the game on the line. He over-shot a layup, Thomas tips it back to him, Lu gets fouled then to miss two ft’s. 20-30 from the line. Deng is shooting under 70% from the ft line this year, that isn’t ok either.

    Rose had 21 pts but only 1 ast and 5 To’s last night, and wasn’t good from the stripe. Bad nights happen in the NBA, let’s not overreact. Overall Boozer has been terrific so far when he has played, he had a bad night. He hasn’t been as much of a liability defensively as he was advertised so far, maybe Thibs tough love here will help down the road when it matters.

  • Chris in Scootsdale

    In completely unrelated to anything news…

    Check out Darnell Dockett’s Twitter page- it’s unreal.

    The guy makes Ochocinco look like a canonized Rhodes Scholar.

    Yesterday a teammate was in a store on lockdown due to a shooting at a mall here in AZ. Dockett’s response? To guess the race of the shooter… and try to stereotype shooters according to race. Classic.

  • bigtime sucker

    ahhhhhhhhh the power of twitter………

    anywho i am smiling because the music feed has been playing bond themes today. the simple things in life………….

  • BearsFanInHoustonTx

    looks like another boring B and B show slated for today….why don’t you all at least TRY to talk Hockey? Recall those Stanley Cup winners that play in the same building?

  • bigtime sucker

    ummmmmmmmmm i guess so, i have to think though, their lack of performance that would normally be a shock to most fan bases isn’t really in this case, i mean they overhauled half their team, including starting a starting forward and their biggest infront of the net presence in Buff, their 4th best scorer in versteeg, valuable role players in eager, madden and a few others and your starting goal tender. So while t heir play has been dissapointing, they aren’t really a dissapointment because smart fans realize that the expectations had to ratcheded down quite a bit. it’s about what we expected this season to be. oh throw on all that loss the fact that we knew Kaner has turned into a guy just enetering into his early 20’s and has discovered the night life, in other words, a freakin lush, that hasn’t helped either

  • bigtime sucker

    booz being sat in the 4th quarter is INDEED news and so he had to go withit and we obviously have our thoughts as well

  • crash corrigan

    Hawk is fond of saying that today’s baseball players are better than his era. Is this reflected in HOF voting in that players like Harold Baines with nearly 3,000 hits, would probably have been voted in had they played in the 50’s or 60’s? Are all the gaudy stats simply the result of suspected steroid use or not?

    • bigtime sucker

      good question, don’t have an answer for you

  • Ry

    Hopefully on today’s show, we’ll get another call from Tony in Madsen.

    Tony: “Hey, uhhh (player name) was a better player than (player name)!”

    Bernstein: “No he’s not.”

    Tony: “(heavy breathing) why not? (more heavy breathing)”

    and so on….

  • meesohawnee

    how shocking. A bulls blog…wash rinse repeat wash rinse repeat. Rememember boyz.. Simon says…

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      Bernsie’s default is always Bulls.

      Bears and Sox are a distant second/third.

  • Timmymac

    I miss the Murph Blog

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      I do too…it was the funniest, clap clap, blog the Score had.

      Of course, Murph’s litigation against CBS might make it a cold day in hell before we ever see it (or hear his boring voice) again.

  • Jaimie in Hoffman Estates

    I nominate Ron Franklin, for “Tool of the Week”

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      Certainly he is Mr. Magoo of the week.
      Frickin’ blind.
      The horses she would cover on racing events for ESPN were better looking than Jeannine Edwards.

      • General Soreness

        I don’t think he was saying she was Hot when he called her “Sweet baby”. He also called her an “a-hole”. With that said, I would do her. But, then again, I am a sex addict.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        I think you are right General…he was just addressing her with the language of a 68-year-old guy from Mississippi (sort of like “sweetie”).

        I dunno…her eyes have always, always creeped me out whenever I saw her on Booyah.

      • bigtime sucker

        PROBABLY a racial undertone as well

  • Jaimie in Hoffman Estates

    Lol, I think you just made my day!

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Man-o-man, is Jim Harbaugh in the right place at the right time?

    He has all that $ chasing him because he is the hot “get” and will be the flavor of the month unless/until Cowher or Chuckie come out of the tv booth.

    I predict he will go with the Dolphins as soon as they can fire the current coaching staff and then set-up phony Rooney Rule interviews.

    • bigtime sucker

      that’s unfortunate and Harbough is definatly seeing green here. Again, better to cover your self in professional stink than phoney amature stink and he can take all that money and not have to bribe adn tamper with recruits adn i applaud him for that,
      college success has absolutly no indication whatsoever of NFL success

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        Amen to that……Nick Saban with the Fins.

      • bigtime sucker

        perhaps an amendment should be added to it, if there is an actual coaching search, then the rule applys, but if an owner has ONE SPECIFIC candidate in mind, he should be able to feel free to go ahead, pursue and then hire that client without interviewing anybody else. The rule is there to empower minorities, not to patronize them.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        I agree with you bts

        that’s the problem with rules or laws or procedures…….someone with a mind/heart to ignore or subvert them can always find a loophole

      • bigtime sucker

        i like the rooney rule, i don’t like the execution of it

      • bigtime sucker

        he sed owner pursues that favored client, and decides that that client is selling owner a bill of goods and owner is able to see through that and not hire, then the rule kicks back in as owner then has to do a search. But if i am minority candidate like perry sewell and i am called to interview for the dolphins knowing that they have an 8 million dollar per year deal waiting in the wings for jim harbough and that the only reason i am in the office interviewing is to satisfy a rule, i am telling sed owner to f- off and not showing up for the interview

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        good thoughts bts

        the only exception I would make is if they already have a guy as Interim Coach…like Jason Garrett at Dallas. No need for a “process” if they now want to give the guy a contract going forward.

  • Jon, Montgomery

    Stanford QB Andrew Luck has chosen to return for His Junior year and Not Enter the NFL draft.

    i guess he REALLY doesn’t want to play for the panthers!! lol

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      WOW….that’s a bombshell.
      I know the lock-out is threatened, if not likely, but still he was assured to be the #1 pick in the draft…and we all know how that worked out for Matt Leinart when he went back for one more year.

      • Jon, Montgomery

        this looks to be a costly decision in every way, and the only good i could see for him coming out of this decision is that he probably won’t play for carolina any time soon. but i would’ve chosen to enter and be assured big money instead of waiting for another year, possibly getting injured in college, and NOT being assured anything if there is a lockout. so overall, i really don’t understand this decision and i think it will prove to be a bad one.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    I agree with you Jon.
    Smart kid, Stanford….so I hope he buys an injury insurance policy from Lloyds to replace his income in case he is injured and his draft-stock drops.

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      Taking the young man at his word, I have to respect his values.
      I still would have advised him to go for the cash and go back to school later on…but you gotta admire his stated values.

  • AT3374

    wow , Jerry

    So Peppers wasn’t a “desparation ” move ? R U kidding me ?

  • bigtime sucker

    read david haughs column, it’s backed by some interesting financial numbers that state that the bears pretty much placed and prepared themselves into a position of signing peppers without exceeding their budget. I was actually impressed by what i read.

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      typo…think you mean Dan Pompei

      that was an impressive column.

      JA can do a good job EXCEPT for the draft.
      Other than that Mrs. Lincoln…..

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