Chicago Bulls: 2011 Bulls Reviews
Over the past few weeks, we've taken a closer look at each player on the Bulls roster and have seen where they fit in for the future. Now, let's take a look at the two men who put that roster together and hired the NBA coach of the year, Tom Thibodeau, last summer.
Gar Forman and John PaxsonSeason recap: Forman and Paxson repeatedly said last summer that they formulated multiple plans for the organization while waiting to see where free agents landed. After LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decided to sign (or in Wade's case, re-sign) with the Miami Heat, the duo put a contingency plan into action. They signed Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson to play alongside Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Taj Gibson, forming one of the deepest teams in the league. Forman and Paxson also hired Thibodeau -- the man who would end up maximizing the talent on the roster.
Season highlight: The regular season. The Bulls won a league-high 62 games and played hard almost every night. Rose took his game to a new level and led the team through injury-plagued stretches which saw Boozer and Noah go down for weeks at a time. The bench that Forman and Paxson put together turned into one of the most dependable units in the game. The entertaining Bulls created a level of excitement the team hasn't seen since the Jordan years. It's the main reason why Forman was named co-executive of the year with Pat Riley. Paxson finished in third place.
Season lowlight: The Eastern Conference finals. The Bulls played one of their best games of the year in Game 1, but after that it all went downhill. Boozer, who hadn't played very well in the postseason, had two solid games against the Heat but struggled in the others. Noah did not play like himself and was not much of a factor. And Rose, who had played so well throughout the season, looked worn out and didn't get much help on the perimeter, aside from Deng’s consistent play.
Final grades: Regular Season: A. Postseason: C.
“Notes: Plenty of fans clamored the Bulls to trade for a two-guard at the deadline, but Forman and Paxson didn't want to give up some of their young bench pieces, namely Gibson and Omer Asik. While most people agreed with that decision, and there's no telling if a deal would have helped them beat Miami or not, there's no question that the lack of another perimeter scoring option doomed the Bulls in the East finals. After Game 1, the Bulls simply couldn't make enough end-of-game plays to win. Now, the question becomes: What can Forman and Paxson do to get another game-changer on the roster, especially given that Noah's new deal kicks in next year and Boozer's deal is also going to become more bloated over the next few years.
This is a team award. Our entire front office -- from everybody involved -- has got a piece of it. I'm just happy that if there's votes given, the Chicago Bulls are getting votes. That means we're doing something right.” -- Gar Forman
What's next?: After the Bulls make their selections in the draft on Thursday, there won't be much left for Forman and Paxson to do until the lockout ends. Sure, they can discuss who they might go after in free agency, but until the collective bargaining agreement is hammered out, they won't know exactly what the numbers are and what they have to work with. For the time being, they should rest assured that the organization is in good shape with Thibodeau at the helm, an MVP in Rose and a lot of young pieces behind him.
Season recap: Deng had a great year. Before the season, his goal was to play in all 82 games, and he did just that. He was sick of people saying he was soft and wanted to prove to his critics that he could contribute in every game without being forced out because of an injury. Mission accomplished. Deng was solid on both ends of the floor, averaging 17 points, six rebounds and three assists a game, while becoming one of the team's best perimeter defenders. He also became one of Thibodeau's favorites because of his ability to help out in so many areas.
Season highlight: In a Nov. 1 game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Deng dropped 40 points and had one of his most dominant offensive nights in years. The key for Deng was that almost all of his points came in the rhythm of the offense. With Carlos Boozer out of the lineup for the first month of the season, Deng stepped up offensively, averaging almost 21 points during the first month.
Season lowlight: Deng was so consistent throughout the year that it's hard to find a certain part of the season where he really struggled. If I had to pick one stretch though, I'd probably go with Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference finals. Deng was just 11-for-28 from the field combined and understandably looked a little worn out after chasing LeBron James around for the past two nights. He didn't play terribly, he just didn't play at the level, especially offensively, that he had set for himself earlier in the season.
Final grades: Regular season -- A | Postseason -- B
“Notes: Deng took a beating this season. He was almost always wrapped in ice after games. He was a league leader in minutes, averaging about 39 a game. It was pretty clear at times during the end of the season that those minutes caught up with Deng at times, especially given that he had to expend so much energy on the defensive end. Still, Deng endeared himself to a portion of the fan base that wasn't sure he could still play at a near All-Star level. If he plays the same way next season, the Bulls, and their fans, will be ecstatic.
I never played for the doubters. Or the people that don't believe or anything. I never do. I always say that once you do that it's a battle, it's somewhere you don't want to go. Once your doubters, and all the media and everything controls who you are and what you do, that's already a sign of failure.” -- Luol Deng
What's next?: Deng is scheduled to play for Team Great Britain this summer in preparation for next year's Olympics in London. He's been looking forward to the Olympics for a while now. The biggest key for him is to rest and get his body back in order when he gets the chance. Last year around this time, Bulls fans wanted to deal him for whatever they could ... now they'll be happy if he comes back and contributes like he did this past season.
Season recap: Watson struggled to adjust to Tom Thibodeau's system early in the season and was frustrated with his lack of playing time behind Derrick Rose. But he bounced back to become one of the leaders of the Bench Mob and provided needed offense off the bench. He was also very durable, playing in every regular season game. Thibodeau would have liked him to be more consistent, but Watson played well, for the most part, in his first season in Chicago.
Season highlight: With Rose sidelined because of a stiff neck, Watson came to the rescue in a Nov. 26 game against the Denver Nuggets. He scored 33 points and almost led the Bulls to a surprise road win. For one night, it looked as if Watson had turned back the clock to his former Golden State days. He got the shots that he wanted and was a focal point of the offense, a role he usually thrives in.
Season lowlight: From Nov. 27 (after Rose returned) to Dec. 15, Watson was just 8-for-35 from the field and struggled to find consistency on the offensive end. Again, a lot of this probably had to do with the minutes adjustment. After averaging almost 28 a year ago, Watson hovered around 12-13 a game all season.
Final grades: Regular season -- B- | Postseason: C
“Notes: Bulls guard Ronnie Brewer noted during the year that it was Watson who came up with the "Bench Mob" moniker. As the season rolled along, Watson and the rest of the group settled into their roles nicely. Obviously, he would have liked to have played more, but Watson enjoyed the kind of cult following that the group established and played steadier once he got accustomed to his minutes.
I don't have any regrets. I'd rather win than lose any day ... I want to win. I don't want to lose. I want to get a chance to experience the playoffs and hopefully go further, deep into the playoffs. I never want to lose a game of basketball. It's all about winning.” -- C.J. Watson before playing against his former team, Golden State in February
What's next?: Watson has established himself as the backup point guard for the Bulls. Thibodeau gained more trust in him throughout the year, although Watson didn't shoot the ball in the postseason as well as he would have liked. For the Bulls, he fills the role that they need -- a player who can come in and spot Rose for a few minutes when he needs a breather. Watson should improve a little more next season and will continue to provide a solid boost off the bench.
Season recap: Butler signed with the Bulls in early March after being released by the Los Angeles Clippers. He only played in six regular season games, but that didn't stop him from becoming one of the most talked about players on the team. A large group of fans wanted to see him get more minutes, especially during the postseason, but Tom Thibodeau's rotation was already set and he decided to keep Butler on the bench.
Season highlight:In the Bulls' final regular season game against the New Jersey Nets on April 13, Butler went 4-for-5 from the field for 10 points in just 13 minutes. It was after this performance that many fans wondered if and when Butler would get more playing time.
Season lowlight: Butler didn't play enough to earn a lowlight, unless you count the fact that he got just 6:37 of playing time combined in the playoffs.
Final grades: Regular season -- Inc | Postseason -- Inc
“Notes:I never understood why so many people wanted Butler to play so much. In 41 games for the Clippers this season he was shooting 32 percent from the field and averaging five points a game. Thibodeau basically said from the beginning it would be tough for Butler to crack the rotation because he was coming in so late and Butler understood. Still, a portion of the fan base clamored for Butler to get more time, believing that he could be the answer to the Bulls offensive woes.
The Bulls have a great tradition. They're looking to continue to add to it. You can see the way that they've played this year. It's a great opportunity for me to be part of a winning organization. They're doing extremely well this year ... for them to have some interest in me, it made me feel really good.” -- Rasual Butler, after signing with Bulls
What's next?: It seems doubtful that Butler will return. He will look for a team where he can play more and the Bulls will look to fill out the end of their bench with a few younger players. Butler did average 12 points a game just two seasons ago so there should be several teams willing to give him a chance, but it doesn't appear likely that the Bulls will be one of them.
Season recap: Scalabrine did exactly what the Bulls and new coach Tom Thibodeau expected him to do this season. He was essentially a player-coach. He rarely got into games and at the end of the season he didn't even dress, but he managed to make an impact by helping players understand Thibodeau's system. His teammates and coaches knew he was a quirky guy, but they appreciated his work ethic and his attitude. He earned a cult-like following during his time in Chicago -- people loved cheering for "The White Mamba" whenever they got the chance.
Season highlight: After playing five seasons with the Boston Celtics, Scalabrine made his return to Boston in early November and received a big standing ovation. The Celtics played a montage of a Scalabrine highlights on their big screen as cheers washed over the reserve forward. The running joke on that night was there was more media surrounding Scalabrine than anyone else. The reality was that it wasn't much of a joke.
Season lowlight: After a March 15 game against the Washington Wizards, Scalabrine walked out of the Bulls locker room and told gathering media members to tell Bulls fans that he was sorry he couldn't hit a three-pointer that would have given fans a free Big Mac.
Final grades: Regular season -- A | Postseason -- A
“Notes: You could make the argument that Scalabrine was the second-most popular player on the Bulls this season behind Derrick Rose. Every night at the United Center fans screamed for him to come in the game. Any time the Bulls played on the road, fans in other cities did the same. He enjoyed the love that he was given, but even he had to laugh sometimes at the things he heard during the game.
We were talking to Chicago the whole [offseason], but I was talking to [Bulls general manager] Gar [Forman] and the holdout was that I wanted a statue next to Michael Jordan [outside the United Center], 'He was like, 'A lot of good players have come through Chicago, I don't know if i can guarantee we can do that.' So I said, 'I'm going to hold out until you promise me that.' At the end of the day, I said, 'Fine, you don't have to put the statue up.' "” -- Brian Scalabrine on his contract negotiations with the Bulls last summer
What's next?: The Bulls have to decide whether they want to keep Scalabrine in the same role next season. Scalabrine has to decide if he wants to continue serving as a player/coach in the NBA, or whether he'd like to possibly go play somewhere in Europe and continue the "playing" portion of his career. The impending lockout may factor into his decision as well, given he probably only has a few more seasons left to make good money as a professional basketball player. Either way, Scalabrine will be fine. He gets along with people extremely well and will land on his feet whether he's still playing or not next season. Doc Rivers has said Scalabrine has a position waiting for him on his staff with the Celtics if he decides to retire. Scalabrine has repeatedly resisted the notion that he will coach, preferring to focus on the possibility of a broadcasting career.
Season recap: Korver was pretty much the kind of player the Bulls thought they were getting. He was a streaky shooter all season who struggled at times defensively. He hit some big shots throughout the course of the season, including several huge three-pointers in the first round against the Indiana Pacers, but he also went through one of the toughest stretches of his career in late December/early January where it seemed as if he couldn't buy a basket. Some fans clamored for Korver to be in the starting lineup, while others wished coach Tom Thibodeau would keep him on the bench. Korver would be the first to admit he could have shot better this season considering he shot 42 percent from three-point range on the season, compared to 54 percent from beyond the arc in Utah in 2009-10.
Season highlight: Korver had 13 points and was 4-for-4 from beyond the arc, drilled several crucial threes, in a Game 1 win over the Pacers in the first round. He also went off for 22 points in a Bulls' victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January.
Season lowlight: From Dec. 22 to Jan. 14, Korver was a combined 18-for-61 and continuously struggled to find any kind rhythm with his shot.
Final grades: Regular season -- C | Postseason -- D
“Notes: As Thibodeau mentioned repeatedly throughout the season, even when Korver wasn't making his shots he was still an asset for the Bulls offensively. Defenses had to account for his ability to knock down shots and his presence created even more space for Derrick Rose, who loved having him on the floor because of that ability. The pair should be able to develop even more chemistry next season. Korver will continue to struggle for minutes under Thibodeau because his defense isn't up to the veteran coach's standards most of the time. That's not to say Korver doesn't try hard on that end of the floor, it's just that he is always the guy opposing defenses key in on when they need a basket.
As a shooter, you need rhythm. And when you play off a guy like Derrick, who gives you space and time to get rhythm on your shot, it means everything.” -- Kyle Korver
What's next?: If Keith Bogans doesn't return, Korver will be in the mix for the starting two guard position with Ronnie Brewer, as long as the Bulls don't decide to pick up another perimeter player in the offseason. The key for Korver is to continue to work on his foot speed and show Thibodeau that he can improve defensively. Considering he's been in the NBA for close to a decade, that may be an issue. But Korver knows that's where he must get better, and he will work on it during the summer. As long as his shot becomes a little more consistent next season, the Bulls will be happy.
Season recap: Asik struggled at times during the first couple months of the season to find a rhythm and adjust to the NBA game. He spent extra time working at the Berto Center with assistant coaches Ron Adams and Ed Pinckney and head coach Tom Thibodeau, and that extra work paid off. Asik became an important member of the Bench Mob and gained a lot of respect in the locker room because of his work ethic. He became Joakim Noah's main backup by the end of the season and gained valuable experience in the postseason before a fractured fibula end his rookie year prematurely.
Season highlight: In a March 17 game at New Jersey, Asik came in off the bench to score 11 points and grab 16 rebounds. It was a performance that gave him even more confidence and something his teammates and coaches took great pride in. Just two games later, Asik followed that up with a season-high 14 points against the Sacramento Kings.
Season lowlight: Obviously, the season-ending injury was a lowlight for Asik. Aside from that, the only thing he struggled with at times was with the adjustment to a new country and a new league. He looked unsure of himself offensively, and the Bulls know that is something he must work on in the offseason to improve upon. And he must improve from the free throw line, where he shot 50 percent.
Final grades: Regular season -- B | Postseason -- B
“Notes: Asik seemed to fit in well with his teammates, and he was a constant source of humor for them because of some of his wardrobe choices. The big key for the the Turkish center is to heal his leg, hit the weights hard in the summer and work on his post moves. For as much as he improved during the year, he still only averaged three points and four rebounds, albeit in limited minutes. Asik has a chance to make a lot of money in his new deal if he can show the league he can be more of a force offensively. He is a good rebounder, he sets good screens, and he has the chance to be a great defender. If he can become a reliable threat offensively he will eventually become a starter -- either for the Bulls or another team.
He's a really bright kid, and he's picked up the game really well. Defensively, I just think he's top of the line. I think he can be as good as any defensive player in this league. And he's getting close to it already.” -- Bulls assistant coach Ron Adams on Asik's development
What's next?: Like Taj Gibson, the Bulls do not want to deal Asik. They see him as a very valuable piece for the future and a guy that will get even better over time. Having said that, if the right deal comes along, especially for a player the Bulls feel can make a difference on the perimeter, they will look long and hard at pulling the trigger. Nobody is quite sure what Asik's ceiling is at the moment but the organization knows that finding talented young big men is always difficult and they certainly won't give him up unless they get a difference maker in return.
Season recap: As usual, Gibson did what was asked of him and did it well. After playing in all 82 games as a rookie, Gibson followed that up by playing in 80 in his second season. He filled in nicely for Carlos Boozer at the beginning of the season, and after struggling to adjust to a bench role at times during the middle of the year, Gibson became one of Tom Thibodeau's most trusted defenders during the postseason.
Season highlight: A case could be made for two moments, one in the beginning of the year and one at the end. The first one came in November during a game against the Dallas Mavericks. Gibson racked up 17 points, 18 rebounds and nailed his only three-pointer of the season. In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, Gibson dunked on Dwyane Wade and followed that up at the end of the fourth quarter with a one-handed cuff dunk that he liked even more.
Season lowlight: Gibson fought through several injuries during the season, but his toughest battles came off the court. He lost three close friends before the season started and his grandfather passed away in February. The fact that Gibson persevered through all of those losses and was still able to perform is one of the biggest reasons he is so respected by his teammates.
Final grades: Regular season -- B | Postseason -- B
“Notes: The more you watch Gibson play, the more you start to wonder if the Bulls made a mistake when they signed Carlos Boozer. Instead of allowing Gibson to grow in his role as the starting power forward (and use their free agent money somewhere else), the Bulls signed Boozer believing he could be the second offensive option behind Derrick Rose. Boozer struggled in the final few months of the season and lost key minutes to Gibson in the postseason because Gibson is a much better defender. Boozer will probably always be the better offensive player between the two, but there's no question Thibodeau trusts Gibson more on the floor in crunch time.
One thing about us, we've been all growing as a unit all year long. So like [coach Tom Thibodeau] said, 'We're going to walk through the fire together.' Nobody else is going to walk through it with us, we're going to walk through it together.” -- Taj Gibson
What's next?: The Bulls don't want to deal Gibson, but if the right deal comes along for a player they feel can be a difference maker for them, they will think long and hard about it. He's one of their most valuable trade chips and a guy plenty of teams will continue to ask about. In the meantime, Gibson will continue to be one of the stalwarts of the Bench Mob and a guy that will be actually be able to work on his game this summer. Last year, Gibson couldn't do much in the offseason because of lingering issues with plantar fasciitis. This summer he should be able to improve his offensive game because of the increased amount of time he will be able to spend in the gym.
Season recap: If Brewer didn't have hamstring issues before and during training camp, he probably would have been the Bulls starting two-guard. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau decided to stick with Keith Bogans from start to finish. Despite saying at times that the move from projected starter to the bench didn't bother him, it was clear that it took Brewer a while to adjust to his new role. Once he did, Brewer became a core member of the Bench Mob and a player Thibodeau grew to trust on defense.
Season highlight: The final two games of the season. Brewer saved his best for last, playing very well in the Eastern Conference finals. In Game 4, he made several clutch shots and free throws and in Game 5 he scored 10 points and seemed to get in Dwyane Wade's head at times throughout the series.
Season lowlight: No player on the Bulls managed to miss more breakaway dunks/layups than Brewer. It happened on at least three or four different occasions throughout the year, including the playoffs. In each instance, Brewer's miscues changed the momentum of each game.
Final grades: Regular season: C | Postseason: B
“Notes: Had it not been for a thumb injury he suffered in the second to last game of the season, Brewer would have played in every game this season. He was durable and gave the Bulls a solid performance on most nights. He is a very good defender and is well liked in the locker room. The problem for the Bulls is that they didn't see many glimpses of the guy who averaged almost 14 points a game a few years ago in Utah. Granted, being an offensive threat isn't as important when Derrick Rose share the backcourt, but Brewer didn't really seem like much of an offensive threat. He shot 48 percent from the field, but he still appeared hesitant to shoot a long-range jumper on most nights. The Bulls knew he wasn't a good three-point shooter and that was apparent from the outset, as he shot just 22 percent from beyond the arc. Opposing teams might have feared Brewer's defense to a certain extent, but they certainly didn't consider him much of an offensive threat.
The Bench Mob always wins. We always win because we don't give up. We play hard every possession. Sometimes the starters get complacent and they look for fouls in practice. We haven't scrimmaged in a long time, but I'm pretty sure if we scrimmaged right now we'd probably beat them.” -- Ronnie Brewer discussing the battles in practice between the bench players and the starters
What's next?: The general assumption is that the Bulls will look to upgrade the two-guard position after the lockout ends, but if they can't find an upgrade for the right price, Brewer may get more of a chance to crack Thibodeau's lineup. The question is: Can Brewer be the starting two-guard for a championship team? After seeing him play this all season, it would be tough to argue that he could because he doesn't provide the type of offensive firepower the Bulls need alongside Rose. Brewer is a solid bench piece, but his jumper isn't reliable enough to count on the nights when Rose is off.
Season recap: Up and down. For the first month of the season, Noah played the best basketball of his career. He was in the best shape of his life and racked up a double-double almost every night. But he tore a ligament in his thumb in November and was never the same. After having surgery in mid-December, he was never quite the same when he returned after the All-Star break. He and Carlos Boozer never meshed particularly well together on the floor, and Noah became frustrated at the end of the year when he couldn't play the way he had earlier in the season. He was the first one to admit after the Eastern Conference finals that he must play better for the Bulls to win a championship.
Season highlight: Noah scored in double figures in every game he played in the first month of the season and was dominant on the glass. He averaged 16 points and 15 rebounds in October/November. Had he not gotten hurt, Noah probably would have been on his way to the first All-Star berth of his career.
Season lowlight: The fourth quarter of Game 5 against the Heat. Noah sat on the bench and watched it all. Veteran big man Kurt Thomas played the final 12 minutes as Noah watched. Noah had just five points and eight rebounds in the game.
Final grades: Regular season -- B- | Postseason -- C-
“Notes: Noah's new contract kicks in after the lockout, and he will face even more scrutiny to produce when it does. He is scheduled to make almost $60 million over the next five years and there are two questions he must overcome in the coming months in order to prove his doubters wrong. First, he must fight the tag that he is injury-prone. He missed large chunks of the past two seasons (plantar fasciitis and thumb surgery). Secondly, he must show his critics that he is well-rounded enough to be the starting center on a championship caliber team. He is solid defensively and as a rebounder, but he still has not developed much of an offensive game. He shot a jumper (the "tornado" as he calls it) with confidence early in the year, but didn't take it much after he got hurt. He is aware of his offensive shortcomings and acknowledged that he must work over the summer to improve his game.
Miami is a helluva team. They're Hollywood as hell, but they're still very good. You've got to give credit when credit is due. It's just tough to be in this position right now.” -- Joakim Noah after losing to the Heat in Game 5
What's next?: Noah will spend a large part of his summer working with trainer and close friend Alex Perris to improve his overall conditioning. It's a sure bet he will be back in the gym working on his post moves as well. Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recently told ESPN 1000's "Waddle and Silvy" that he thought Noah could be a "monster" if he developed offensively. It will be interesting to see who Noah decides to work with and how the progression goes. He is still a huge piece of the Bulls' puzzle, but if he doesn't play better in the big games, a faction of the fan base may start to turn on him.
Season in review: Bogans wasn't expected to play much when he signed last summer, but once Ronnie Brewer's hamstring started to give him problems again in training camp, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau went with Bogans in the starting lineup and never looked back. The veteran guard only played about 15-20 minutes a game and rarely saw action late in games, but he became a lighting rod for criticism throughout the year, especially after the trade deadline, because the fan base wanted the Bulls to upgrade the shooting guard position. The bottom line is that Bogans played about the way the Bulls expected him to throughout the year. He was a reliable, respected presence in the locker room who played solid defense and sometimes hit open shots.
Season highlight: Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Indiana Pacers. Bogans scored 15 points, hitting five three pointers and giving the Bulls a huge boost as they closed out a tough Pacers team.
Season lowlight: From December 18-January 7, Bogans was just 6-for-25 from the field and struggled to find any kind of rhythm with his shot. It was around this point in the season when the calls to replace him in the lineup may have been loudest.
Final grades: Regular season -- C | Postseason -- C
“Notes: Bogans is a solid guy and a player who can be a good addition to any team, but he isn't the type of player who can be the starting shooting guard for a team that wins a championship. In short, the Bulls must upgrade his position in the summer because they need somebody who can give Derrick Rose more relief on the perimeter. They need someone who can score 15 or 20 points on nights when Rose is cold and can't find his shot. Bogans simply isn't that guy. Yes, he shot 40 percent from the field, but he also missed plenty of wide open looks playing alongside Rose. The Bulls need someone more dynamic on the wing.
It doesn't frustrate me at all. I'm being talked about. I've been around long enough, people are going to say things.” -- Keith Bogans, on critics of him starting
What's next?: Bogans had successful arthroscopic surgery on his right knee after the year and should be fine if the Bulls decide to keep him -- but that's the question now: Will they keep him? The second year of his deal isn't guaranteed and the team has an option, and it must decide whether to pick it up in the next few weeks. If Bogans does come back, it should be as a reserve guard who can play spot minutes, or as an insurance policy if someone gets hurt. He was a favorite of Thibodeau's because of his reliability and popular with his teammates, but if the Bulls feel like they can make an upgrade after the lockout ends, they may decide not to pick up the option and see what happens.
Season in review: Boozer's season started badly, got better in the middle, and then ended, somewhat fittingly, on the bench. Boozer got hurt before he even played a game for the Bulls after tripping over a bag in his home and breaking his hand, missing the first month of the season. Once he returned, he was fine on his own in the post without Bulls center Joakim Noah, racking up about 20 points and 11 rebounds a game during December and January. Once Noah returned, Boozer wasn't nearly effective. He sprained his ankle in March, lost any lift he had during the season, and looked like a shell of his former self. Even after he got healthy, Boozer didn't play particularly well. Aside from a handful of games in the postseason, Boozer was non-existent. He suffered a turf toe injury in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals and ended up finishing the year on the bench, sitting for the entire fourth quarter, during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat.
Season highlight: In consecutive games in mid-December, Boozer went off for 22 points and 18 rebounds against the Indiana Pacers and 34 points and 12 rebounds against the Raptors. At this moment, most fans believed that Boozer was going to be the low-post scoring presence that the Bulls have been missing for years. The problem was, after December and January, the consistency just wasn't there on a nightly basis.
Season lowlight: The postseason. Boozer just did not play well during the playoffs. He scored just five points in Game 1 against the Pacers and got burned defensively. He became such a liability that Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau ended up sitting him through large portions of games. His defenders, and there aren't many left, will point to the fact that he had 46 points and 18 rebounds during Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, proving he can still come through at times. Problem is, he followed that up with five points and six rebounds in 26 minutes in Game 5.
Final grades: Regular season -- B- | Postseason -- F
“Notes: When Boozer signed in the summer, he was billed as the type of difference maker who could be the second offensive option on a championship team. After seeing Boozer perform this season, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which that happens. Boozer developed a track record over the years as being injury prone and a defensive liability, both of which came through with flying colors over the past year. He played in just 59 games during the regular season and was the Bulls' weakest link defensively during the year. At this point in Boozer's tenure, it doesn't even matter what he does during the regular season anymore. People want to see him perform when the Bulls need him most, to take some pressure off Derrick Rose. He didn't do that over the past month and a half.
I love my teammates, man. We've been defending each other all season, no matter who was going through what throughout the course of the year. We've always had each other's back. We're all like a family. A lot of people say that, but we really are.” Boozer on May 14, in the midst of all the criticism he faced
What's next?: It seems like every Bulls fan wants to trade Boozer right now -- but what team wants that contract? Orlando GM Otis Smith can only make so many bad deals, right? The Bulls have to hope that all the criticism fuels Boozer to come back in even better shape after the lockout ends. The question is, even if he comes back in better shape, will he be able to hold up throughout the year and play well in the postseason? Given what he's shown up to this point, the answer is probably no.