Efficient Carlos Boozer returns to friendly confines of United Center

December, 26, 2014
Dec 26
12:44
AM CT
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Unlike fellow class of 2010 free agent LeBron James, Carlos Boozer wasn’t welcomed back to his old stomping grounds with a video tribute on Christmas.

Of course, he didn’t win two titles with the Chicago Bulls, either.

And yes, Bulls fans yelled “Boo,” not “Booz," during the Bulls’ 113-93 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.

[+] EnlargeCarlos Boozer
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images"This is like a second home for me," Carlos Boozer said of his return to Chicago. "I know everybody here. We became like a family over the years."
Boozer, the Bulls’ consolation prize four summers ago, was “amnestied” after last season to give the Bulls salary-cap room for a new crop of free agents. It was an expected move -- and the right one as his minutes atrophied over his last season. Outside of the locker room, he's not exactly missed, especially with the way his replacement, Pau Gasol, is playing.

Now a backup power forward for the Lakers, Boozer had an efficient game in his return to Chicago, scoring 14 points on 7-for-11 shooting and adding five rebounds in 17 minutes, 19 seconds off the bench. He is averaging 13 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in 26 minutes for the 9-20 Lakers.

The Bulls are a mirror opposite of Boozer's new team at 20-9.

While the Bulls are much better off with newcomers Gasol and Nikola Mirotic teaming up with frontcourt holdovers Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, the United Center is certainly a quieter place without the voluble Boozer, one of the louder players in the NBA.

“He was pretty quiet tonight, actually,” Noah said after the contest. “But overall, I thought he had a good game.”

While he wasn’t a fan favorite -- and often spent fourth quarters marooned on Tom Thibodeau’s bench because of his defensive liabilities -- Boozer still has plenty of fans in the Bulls organization, from the trainers to the PR staff to the players and coaches. His trademark saying/hashtag, "Holdat," remains popular with the team.

“This is like a second home for me,” Boozer said. “I know everybody here. We became like a family over the years.”

And he can still scream with the best of them.

Take the start of his postgame news conference, which took place in the hallway outside the visitors locker room, for example.

A Lakers TV reporter said, “Carlos, what was this like for you --”

“Easy!” Boozer yelled to Bulls assistant Ed Pinckney, who was down the hall. “Don’t leave yet!”

Then, he seamlessly looked at the reporter and said, “Go ahead.”

“What was it like for you to come back to a place I know you have strong feelings for?”

As you might surmise, Boozer said it was “weird” to play against his “brothers” out there, but he still wanted to get a win.

“I’m just playing,” he said. “You just got to play out there. I’m just out there hooping. I was just trying to be efficient when I’m out there.”

Coming off the bench as an offensive threat seems like a good niche for Boozer to end his career.

“It was cool to see Booz, seeing him out there, just doing his thing out there, just competing,” Noah said.

The Bulls have won five in a row and are very deep. Against the Lakers, nine guys played at least 14 minutes, led by Jimmy Butler’s 42:11. Gasol led the Bulls with 23 points, Butler added 21 and Rose 20. Gasol can finish inside, and Mirotic is a 3-point threat.

Boozer found out what it’s like as an opponent playing against this team, which is pretty healthy for the moment.

“They came in waves, man,” Boozer said. “Jimmy played well, D-Rose played well late, Pau was amazing all game long.”

Boozer visited with his ex-teammates in the home locker room after the game. His locker now belongs to Gasol, a fan favorite who will try to do what Boozer couldn't: win the Eastern Conference and get to the Finals.

Pau Gasol: Facing Lakers 'weird'

December, 25, 2014
Dec 25
11:29
PM CT
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CHICAGO -- Veteran big man Pau Gasol admitted after Thursday night's 113-93 win over the Los Angeles Lakers that it was "weird" facing his former team for the first time since signing with the Chicago Bulls in the summer.

"It's weird," Gasol said after racking up a game high 23 points and 13 rebounds. "Obviously it's an emotional game because you find yourself on the opposite side of a team that you've played for for so many years and you've been through so much [with them]. So it was weird, difficult at first to kind of get going and once you start playing you're just playing the game the best way you can."

Gasol said he spent some time speaking to former teammate Kobe Bryant on Wednesday and was sad that the Laker legend didn't play against the Bulls. Bryant sat the game out with soreness.

"We saw each other for a while," Gasol said. "We sat down for over two hours. Just catching up. It felt good to really to hang out, to talk, spend quality time together. I really enjoyed it. Obviously I miss him, I don't get to see him that much now for obvious reasons, but he's like a brother to me and I wish him the best. I have the utmost respect for who he is and we're always going to support [each other]."

Gasol didn't reveal exactly what was said in the conversation but did note that it had little to do about basketball. He is hopeful that Bryant will be back on the floor soon.


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CHICAGO -- Pau Gasol had 23 points and 13 rebounds against his former team and the Chicago Bulls beat Los Angeles 113-93 on Thursday night with Lakers star Kobe Bryant resting his sore body.

Jimmy Butler added 21 points, and Derrick Rose had 20 points and six assists to help the Bulls win their season-high fifth straight.

With Bryant missing his second straight game, the Lakers were unable to pull off another upset. They stunned Golden State on Tuesday night but came up short against the Central division leaders.

The Bulls hung on after a 16-point second-quarter lead dwindled to two in the third. They pulled away in the fourth, sending the Lakers to their fourth loss in five games.

Gasol, a two-time champion in six-plus seasons with the Lakers, was 9 of 14 from the field in his first game against Los Angeles since joining the Bulls in the summer.


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Bulls 113, Lakers 93: Kobe out again

December, 25, 2014
Dec 25
7:33
PM CT
Holmes By Baxter Holmes
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- No Kobe Bryant -- and no Los Angeles Lakers blowout win, either.

After pummeling the Golden State Warriors without Bryant earlier this week, the Lakers scrapped against the Chicago Bulls here but came up short after shooting 39 percent from the field.

Bryant sat out again to rest, which was unexpected since it meant missing a nationally-televised Christmas Day matchup, but the Lakers held their own for most of the game, coming to within 2 of the Bulls in the third quarter.

In the end, the Bulls, who led by as much as 22, had too much firepower, dropping the Lakers to 9-20. The Lakers did maintain their balance, with five players scoring in double figures, led by Wesley Johnson, who scored 19 points to go along with nine rebounds.

Player of the game: This one goes to Bulls forward Pau Gasol, who scored 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds against his former team.

Not so Swaggy: Nick Young struggled for the Lakers, scoring just 3 points on 1-of-6 shooting in 18 minutes off the bench. Without him and Bryant, the Lakers really lacked a scoring punch.

More reunions: Lakers forward Carlos Boozer scored 14 points and grabbed five rebounds off the bench against his former squad.

Up next: the Lakers head to Dallas to play the Mavericks on Friday. Bryant said there's a "slim" chance that he plays in the game.
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Michael Wilbon on Kobe Bryant sitting out tonight when the Lakers face the Bulls.

Kobe Bryant misses 2nd straight

December, 25, 2014
Dec 25
5:37
PM CT
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CHICAGO -- Lakers star Kobe Bryant missed Los Angeles' 113-93 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night.

The 36-year-old Bryant sat out to rest for the second straight game, Lakers coach Byron Scott announced before the game.

"It's extremely difficult, especially playing here, playing on Christmas Day and playing in this city. I love playing here," Bryant said. "The fans have always been great. There's always a lot of energy in the building.

"At the same time, I've just got to try to be smart. It's really going against my nature, but I've got to be smart about this."

When asked if there was any particular injury hampering him, Bryant cited age and soreness.

"Old age. My knees are sore at this stage of the season," he said. "My Achilles are sore -- both of them. My metatarsals are tight, back is tight. I just need to kind of hit the re-set button."

Bryant also said he'll likely play fewer minutes going forward. When asked about the chances that he'd play Friday in Dallas against the Mavericks, Bryant said, they're "slim right now."

Bryant was listed as probable to play in his 16th career Christmas Day game, but Scott said Bryant notified him of general soreness Thursday morning and decided to sit him out. Scott said he didn't get much resistance from Bryant.

Bryant is averaging 24.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game this season.


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LeBron James top ASG vote-getter

December, 25, 2014
Dec 25
11:17
AM CT
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NEW YORK -- Cleveland's LeBron James and Stephen Curry of Golden State are the leading vote-getters in the first returns from NBA All-Star fan voting.

James had about 553,000 votes at the Eastern Conference frontcourt spot, where New York's Carmelo Anthony ranked second and Chicago's Pau Gasol was third in the results released Thursday. Washington's John Wall topped East guards, and No. 2 was James' former Miami teammate, Dwyane Wade.

Curry had more than 549,000 votes to lead second-place Kobe Bryant among West guards. New Orleans' Anthony Davis had the most votes in the West frontcourt, followed by the Clippers' Blake Griffin and Memphis center Marc Gasol.

Voting runs through Jan. 19, and starters for the Feb. 15 game in New York will be announced Jan. 22.


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Pau Gasol: Will be 'hard to focus'

December, 24, 2014
Dec 24
1:18
AM CT
[+] EnlargePau Gasol and Kobe Bryant
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesPau Gasol is looking forward to facing former teammate Kobe Bryant on Christmas Day.

WASHINGTON -- Former Los Angeles Laker Pau Gasol said it will be "emotional" and "weird" to face his old teammates on Christmas night when his new team, the Chicago Bulls, takes on his former one.

"Emotional, weird, hard to focus," Gasol said of what he expects for his range of emotions Thursday night. "But at the same time, I kind of look forward to it in a way. To see some of the people that I've been through a lot with."

Gasol, who scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds in Tuesday's 99-91 win over the Washington Wizards, signed with the Bulls as a free agent over the summer after spending 6½ years with the Lakers. He knows it's "a little more special" to play on Christmas and is looking forward to facing former teammate Kobe Bryant, who sat out the Lakers' win over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday to rest.

"He's playing really well," Gasol said of Bryant. "I think it's impressing a lot of people about what he's able to do at this point in his career. And all his accomplishments and milestones that he's achieving are incredible. It must be hard for him to lose most of the games, but they have a pretty new team with a lot of new faces and a new coach, a lot to adjust to. And the Western Conference, you get no breaks, it's no joke, and everybody's going to challenge you and everybody wants to beat the Lakers, too, so it's kind of hard but I think they'll improve."

There will be another reunion Thursday, with Lakers power forward Carlos Boozer


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Rose, Bulls draw it up perfectly in D.C.

December, 23, 2014
Dec 23
11:02
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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WASHINGTON -- This is the way things are supposed to work for the Chicago Bulls.

This is the way Gar Forman, John Paxson and Tom Thibodeau drew it up over the summer. Tuesday's 99-91 win over the Washington Wizards unfolded exactly how the Bulls' triumvirate envisioned. A deep Bulls' roster would build a lead heading into the fourth quarter against a quality opponent, and then Derrick Rose would shut things down late in the game.

Those visions have become realities for the Bulls over the past week, as they've put together one of the most impressive stretches in the past three years. Four wins in a row, the past three of which came against Memphis, Toronto and Washington -- teams that have a combined record of 62-22.

"It's real," Bulls center Joakim Noah said of the recent stretch. "Chicago Bulls are getting healthy. It's very real. We know that we're still not where we want to be. And we know the sky's the limit for our team. Our confidence is just getting better, and we're going to keep working, and we feel like we can even get better defensively. But it's all coming, and it's going to be a special year."

The frightening part for the rest of the league is, if the Bulls can somehow stay healthy and continue playing together, they are going to be even better a few months from now than they are right now. That's part of the reason the confidence Noah exudes right now is off the charts. The other reason is, for the second straight game, Rose put the Bulls on his back in the fourth quarter.

After scoring 15 of his 29 points in the fourth Monday night against the Raptors, Rose scored 10 of his 25 in the fourth Tuesday night against the Wizards. He's not all the way back to where he was before he tore the ACL in his left knee in April 2012, but this recent stretch is as close as he has been.

"He's stringing the games together, and so that's important," Thibodeau said. "He had the two games when he was sick, and then he's picked up right where he left off. The good thing was him working through the back-to-backs. It's been a step-by-step process. This is really the first time he's played really well in a back-to-back. He's been playing and playing pretty good minutes in the back-to-backs, and he's felt good, but you could tell his confidence is growing. He's feeling a lot better, and that's great."

What's also great for Thibodeau is the depth he has to work with on a nightly basis. Noah called this Bulls squad the most talented offensive team he's been on since being in Chicago. That point is underscored by the fact that Jimmy Butler, who had a rare off-night on Tuesday and went just 4-for-13 from the field, still has developed to the point that he's opened up space on the floor for Rose.

"Even with me with a live dribble, I know it's dangerous," Rose said. "So to see the attention going somewhere else or going so many places now, it's kind of new for me. A lot of people want me to score 30 points in the first half, [but] I don't have to. I can pick and choose when I want to score or try to change the game. And that's all I'm trying to do with this team."

The former MVP says teams still aren't doubling him, in part because of all the other options the Bulls have on the floor. Between Butler's ability to get to the rim, Pau Gasol's ability to score down on the blocks, Aaron Brooks' ability to penetrate and create his own shot and Nikola Mirotic's long-range jumper, the Bulls are dramatically different than the team that lost to the Wizards in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals last season. Unlike in years past, Thibodeau's team has several weapons to go to on the floor when Rose isn't in rhythm, a credit to Forman and Paxson for creating a deeper roster in the offseason.

As usual with the Bulls, though, everything revolves around Rose. He's proving yet again that even after being out of the game for most of the past two years, he still has the rare ability to turn a game around -- or close one out -- by himself. He never doubted he would be able to do it again, despite all the fans and pundits who thought otherwise. He believes the Bulls are getting used to playing with one another again -- a fact proven in their recent play.

"Just having faith, man," Rose said of maintaining his confidence over the past two years. "I know how special I am as a player. I really feel like I was born to play this sport. I bring joy to people whenever I play. That's all I can say about it."

That's all he and the Bulls need to say right now. Their play is saying more than any other words could.
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WASHINGTON -- Derrick Rose scored 25 points and Pau Gasol had 18 as the Chicago Bulls won their fourth straight, beating the Washington Wizards 99-91 on Tuesday night.

After Washington scored 12 straight -- 10 by John Wall -- to take an 87-86 lead with 3:44 remaining, Chicago steadied and scored eight straight -- six by Rose to lead 94-87 with 1:48 to play.

Wall led the Wizards with 18 points.

The Bulls outrebounded Washington 52-41.

On Monday, Chicago scored a franchise-record 49 points in the fourth quarter as they beat Toronto 129-120. Points were harder to come by a night later.

It was the first meeting of the teams this season. Washington defeated Chicago in the first round of last year's playoffs, 4-1.


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Kirk Hinrich out vs. Wizards

December, 23, 2014
Dec 23
6:16
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
WASHINGTON -- Chicago Bulls point guard Kirk Hinrich will not play Tuesday night against the Washington Wizards because of a strained left hamstring injury sustained in the second half of Monday night's win over the Toronto Raptors. Hinrich did not travel with the Bulls to Washington and his status for Thursday's game against the Los Angeles Lakers is in doubt as well.

"It's tendinitis," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said before the game. "We'll see once we get back. Probably a couple days, but I'm not sure yet. We'll see when we get back."

Hinrich missed two games earlier this season because of bruised ribs. With Hinrich out, Bulls backup point guard Aaron Brooks is expected to get the bulk of Hinrich's minutes off the bench.

In other injury-related news, Doug McDermott (arthroscopic right knee surgery) took some shots before Tuesday's game. He is still expected to miss a couple more weeks after surgery on Dec. 13.

Days of NBA Christmas Past

December, 23, 2014
Dec 23
5:10
PM CT


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A look back through the years at some of the most memorable Christmas games.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jimmy Butler
PTS AST STL MIN
21.6 3.4 1.5 40.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 11.5
AssistsD. Rose 5.0
StealsJ. Butler 1.5
BlocksP. Gasol 2.0