By Dan Bernstein–

CHICAGO (WSCR) — Carlos Boozer is making me look like an idiot, and I’d like him to stop.

His lack of defensive effort on the Pacers’ Tyler Hansbrough is in the process of turning a 46% shooting, 11-point-per-game scoring, bug-eyed grinder into some combination of Bob Pettit and Jack Sikma – draining uncontested jump shots from everywhere.

It’s not all Boozer’s fault, the Bulls are quick to tell us, but c’mon. We watched the game, and it really is almost all his fault.

Late to rotate over, slow to close out, beaten down the floor, baited into silly fouls, whatever you want to pick from the appetizer sampler-platter of bad defense, Boozer can bring it to your table with a full selection of dipping sauces and extra napkins.

Hansbrough is good enough to take what you give him, but not much more than that. He’s a glorified hustle-dork who has honed his shooting touch and learned to use his strength and conditioning to out-try guys. He’s a spaz with more ability than that term usually carries with it. A SuperSpaz?

I always thought he’d be in the NBA for a while, but never the kind of star that many believed after his melodramatic, overhyped college career. I always saw another Nick Collison more than anything else.

Perhaps he’s a little better than that, but not much. Not when somebody actually takes the time to bother him. Tonight would be a good time to start doing that, so the unstoppable NBA force that is Tyler Hansbrough can somehow be curtailed.

Flash back to January 5th in New Jersey, when the Nets’ Kris Humphries –a forward of similar build and athleticism to Hansbrough — abused Boozer for 20 points and 11 rebounds, as he and Brook Lopez ran free from end to end. Boozer played just 26 minutes and sat out the entire fourth quarter, with Tom Thibodeau opting for Luol Deng playing out of position, covering for Boozer by explaining that Deng was used due to the need for another shooter against the Nets’ zone defenses. Right.

We lauded Thibs for making good on his demands for defense, if a little worried about potential conflict with a big-money, veteran star. No worries, it turned out, with Boozer saying the right things in the aftermath, then averaging 26 points and 12 rebounds in his next four games.

Like that night, this could just be a bad matchup. The things Boozer just has never done well were exposed and exploited by the right guy. But the matchup is not changing anytime soon – it’s a playoff series, not a regular-season day trip — so Thibodeau may have a decision to make.

Any defensive value Boozer gives the Bulls comes from his rebounding. If he’s scoring to his career average and grabbing enough opponents’ missed shots, he’s helping the cause. He needs to be a reason Pacers’ possessions end, and not because of another swish. And he needs to keep himself from being a total liability otherwise.

If not, Taj Gibson’s ready to go. The versatile Deng will not be outhustled, either, and could be an option as he was that night against the Nets, depending on personnel. Hansbrough likes to face the basket, which mitigates the strength difference.

NBA players are paid to make open shots, especially in rhythm, with their feet set. The Bulls are where they are because they have spent a season denying open shots, upsetting that rhythm, and moving shooters out of comfortable positions.

That’s all Boozer and the Bulls need to get back to doing, before someone compares Tyler Hansbrough to Larry Bird.

Dan Bernstein

Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s blogs here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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