Accept Boozer for player he is

July, 10, 2010
7/10/10
12:26
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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[+] EnlargeCarlos Boozer
Gary Dineen/Getty ImagesCarlos Boozer was welcomed to the Bulls by GM Gar Forman and coach Tom Thibodeau on Friday.
Carlos Boozer isn't LeBron James. Or Dwyane Wade.

He's not the splashy free agent everyone wanted in Chicago. But he's not exactly a stiff, either.

"I certainly don't look at Carlos as a consolation prize," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said after Boozer's introductory press conference on Friday. "I'm thrilled that we got him and I think we're very fortunate. When I took the job here, I was basing it on the players who were already here. Not the players who might come here. So I'm thrilled with who we have. After being around them I'm even more excited and, of course, adding Carlos I'm thrilled."

Make no mistake, Boozer is going to help the Bulls. He's the type of back-to-the-basket scorer that the team hasn't had in a long, long time. He's also a great passer and he'll fit in nicely alongside Joakim Noah. He may not be the guy everyone wanted, but if he stays healthy he'll fill a role on the team that has been lacking for years. The Bulls' organization actually had him ranked as the top-rated power forward on their board, ahead of Chris Bosh.

Aside from the injury concerns, his biggest problem is that during a free-agency period sprinkled with game-changing superstars, he is a $76 million complimentary piece. He's not the guy that can put an entire team on his back and win championships on his own, but he is absolutely a guy that can be part of a championship contender in Chicago for years to come.

"I don't know about the title part," former Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro told me earlier this year, when I asked if Boozer could be the centerpiece to a title contender, "but he definitely has the ability to lead the team."

Ironically, it's what Del Negro said next that should give Bulls fans comfort in the wake of all that has transpired over the last few days.

"It's not on one person for a title," he continued. "It takes a team. One person can't do it alone. Everyone has to understand what their job is. But he would be a focal point of any team just because of his ability inside to score the basketball and the way he plays."

No, the Bulls did not land the player that would instantly make them a title contender, but with Boozer, new acquisition Kyle Korver, and the possibility of adding J.J. Redick (if the Orlando Magic don't match the offer sheet he just signed) the Bulls have significantly improved themselves this summer. With a couple more moves, Bulls GM Gar Forman may very well have one of the deepest teams in the NBA next season.

Forman has addressed the biggest needs his team had coming into the summer. They've got another big body down low who can score in Boozer, and they may have two shooters on the wings, in Korver and Redick, who will be the beneficiaries of Derrick Rose's drive-and-kick style. Seriously, imagine how many open looks those two could get with Rose running the break..

For a lot of fans, the sting of losing out on James and Wade isn't going to go away for a while, but unlike in Cleveland, the world isn't coming to an end. All of a sudden, at least on paper, the Bulls have become one of the most interesting teams in the league. They probably still won't win a championship next season, but they're a lot closer to one than they were 24 hours ago. With the right additions in the next year or two, they have a chance to step back into the ranks of the NBA's elite very quickly and that is an impressive feat for Forman and his staff, given who ultimately said ‘yes’ and who said ‘no’.

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jimmy Butler
PTS AST STL MIN
20.5 3.2 1.8 39.8
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 12.0
AssistsD. Rose 4.9
StealsJ. Butler 1.8
BlocksP. Gasol 2.2