<
>

Boozer's Chicago legacy not totally fair

7/15/2014

CHICAGO -- If Carlos Boozer ever writes a book about his four seasons with the Chicago Bulls, he should title it, "I Think They Were Yelling 'Booz.'"

While he wasn't always a fan favorite, no one had more confidence in Carlos Boozer than Boozer himself. And with good reason.

The Plan D of the 2010 free-agent bonanza, Boozer was an integral part of four Bulls teams that competed hard, made the playoffs and earned plaudits, but were ultimately beset by the knee injuries of Derrick Rose.

Boozer's Bulls tenure ended Tuesday when the team announced it was using the amnesty clause on him, an open secret considering the Bulls had agreed to sign Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic.

Predictably, the Bulls used the option to wipe the last year of Boozer's five-year, $75 million contract from their salary cap. In a league where every contract can be bartered, Boozer, a crafty veteran with tangible skills, was the exception.

Maybe it was because every team knew he was getting "amnestied," a verb unique to the NBA the past three years and common in Chicago.

I mean, we've only been talking about it since the amnesty clause was added to the new collective bargaining agreement before his second season with the team.

The Bulls will still have to pay Boozer most of the balance of the $16.8 million owed to him in 2014-15, minus whatever a team pays him for this season, but it won't count against the salary cap.

Boozer was the walking reminder that the Bulls failed to land LeBron James & Co. in 2010. He became the scapegoat for a try-hard team that didn't have its No. 1 option for the past three playoffs. And when they did have him, it was clear Boozer wasn't the championship running mate everyone hoped for.

Boozer was a lot like Alfonso Soriano. He was overpaid because he was a free agent, and fans never forgot that the dollars didn't always match the performance.

Boozer started his career on a bad foot, when it was announced he fractured his right wrist "tripping over a bag at his house." It was a questionable injury for a player known for being injury-prone, but after quickly returning from that injury, he turned into something of an "iron man" for a team constantly dealing with injuries.

You could count on Boozer to show up every game. There's something to be said for that.

Boozer made 280 starts while finishing far fewer games. He averaged 15.5 points and nine rebounds, playing just more than 30 minutes a game.

Give Boozer credit: No starter cheered more for his backup than he did for Taj Gibson in the fourth quarter.

But by his last season, it was obvious his time had run out. He played only 28 minutes a game, mostly the first and third quarters. He averaged 13.7 points and 8.3 rebounds, the lowest averages since his rookie season in Cleveland.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau all but banished Boozer to the bench for fourth quarters, as long as Gibson could hobble. Carlos didn't like it, nor should he have, but his complaints never hurt his spirit. This TNT video of Boozer miked up is a classic and proof that he was a solid teammate.

But when it comes to public opinion, you can't really call Boozer polarizing, because he didn't have many defenders outside the inner circles of the Bulls. Fitting because defending was his biggest limitation.

On a team full of max-effort defenders, Boozer stuck out. He was best known for yelling to Joakim Noah that his man was a-coming.

In the past four years, Boozer was probably the loudest Bull. He certainly was the best paid. He never lacked for confidence, either.

My favorite Boozer story was when I asked him about his rap debut in 2011. After his song "Winning Streak" was introduced before the second game of the Eastern Conference finals, the Bulls lost four straight.

Offensively, Boozer still had plenty of moves, the rainbow jumper, the up and under, the "and-1" hand gesture. He could've used a few more inches, height-wise and in his vertical, but that's why he was a second-round pick in the first place.

And for a second-round pick, he's had quite a career. He rose to fame in Utah where he played off Deron Williams in pick-and-roll situations. Playing with Rose, who could split defenders faster than Boozer could hashtag #holdat, Boozer didn't get the same kind of looks in Chicago, while his weaknesses were magnified.

Boozer won't be remembered with great fondness in Chicago. It's not totally fair, but that's life. He'll be fine -- don't worry about him.

If Rose's knees would've held up, maybe the Bulls would've upset Miami once in the past three postseasons. Maybe Boozer would've been part of a championship team.

But they didn't, and he wasn't. And now he's gone.