|ESPN.com: Chicago Bulls||[Print without images]|
|Carlos Boozer has yet to miss a game this season.|
DEERFIELD, Ill. -- With all the concern over whether or not Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau will decide to rest his players for the final two regular-season games, the one guy who appears most primed for a playoff run is, somewhat surprisingly, Carlos Boozer.
The Chicago Bulls' big man hasn't missed a game all season. Given his checkered injury history, it's accomplishment he's very proud of.
"I'm happy to be healthy, especially in this kind of season when there's games almost every day, or traveling every day," he said. "I'm proud of myself; knock on wood and hopefully we can keep it going."
Boozer, who is averaging 15 points and nine rebounds a game this year, admitted that this season has been better than last year's. He played in only 59 regular-season games last year because of various injuries.
"I do," he said. "I think one, being healthy, knocking on wood and two, having chemistry, being able to play with each other. Except for Rip and D. Rose, we've been able to all play together for a lot of minutes out there and get our cohesion going. It's been fun to play with each other again."
Thibs won't sit starters: Thibodeau has heard a variation of the same question over and over in the past few days. Will the Bulls play their starters during the final two regular-season games?
The answer has been the same all week -- and it didn't change after Tuesday's practice.
Yes, they will.
"We just want to take it step by step," Thibodeau said. "We're only thinking about preparing for Indiana and trying to get ready to play them. All that other stuff takes care of itself. We're not looking at the standings, the seedings or any of that stuff, just be ready for Indiana. That's it."
Thibodeau acknowledged that Tuesday night's Heat-Celtics contest may alter things. Still, it sounded as if no matter what happens in that game, the veteran coach will run his starters out there for at least a little action. With a Miami loss, the Bulls clinch the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but because of injuries, Thibodeau may want to allow his starting unit to get in a more of a groove. Chicago's preferred starting lineup -- Derrick Rose, Rip Hamilton, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah -- only played 14 games together this season.
"The important thing is not to change our approach," Thibodeau said. "To prepare the exact same way. Know your opponent, know what you're trying to get accomplished, know what their strengths and weaknesses are. What are the things that we're going to try and take away from them? And what are the things we're willing to live with? What are we going to try and accomplish offensively? Those are the things that you look at."
Rose on the mend: Derrick Rose went through a second straight practice without incident Tuesday afternoon. While his teammates know he's still not all full strength, they realize he is getting there.
"That's the biggest thing for any basketball player, is rhythm and timing," veteran Bulls guard Rip Hamilton said. "Your mind can tell you one thing but your body will tell you something else. That's the biggest difficulty and most frustrating thing [of the process]. But if you're able to get to your shots and the shots just don't fall, then you can live with that all day. Derrick looks good moving around and getting to wherever he wants to get to on the floor. It will take time, but he'll figure it out."
Hamilton knows that getting Rose's explosion back is still a work in progress.
"Any time it's your ankle, it takes time," Hamilton said. "I think it's going to be that one move or that one play and that's the play where you say, 'All right, you know what? Now I can I take it to even another level and another stage.'"
In Boozer's mind, getting Rose back to full strength is another reason he and the rest of the starters should play in the final two games.
"We got D. Rose back, he's still not 100 percent, but he's working through it," Boozer said. "We got Rip back and he looks like he's 100 percent, playing great. So getting our cohesion back is more important than anything else right now."
The last word: "I like our chances, I really do. I think we're a very deep team. And that's the thing that I really admire and I really love, that you've always got somebody coming in and having your back. And the drop off is none. When guys come off the bench, it's not a drop off," -- Hamilton on the similarities between this Bulls team and his championship caliber Pistons teams.