<
>

What will Carlos Boozer's impact be?

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Will Carlos Boozer's return to the court affect the Chicago Bulls' hot start?

It's the only question anyone really cared about on Monday afternoon at the Berto Center. The only problem is, for the moment, there really isn't an answer.

"Well, you'll just have to wait and see," Bulls center Joakim Noah said, when asked how Boozer's arrival will affect team chemistry. "Isn't that the question that everybody's dying to know."

While we wait to figure out that answer, let's try to break down a few other others regarding the Bulls' prized free-agent acquisition.

When will he play?

Boozer still wasn't willing to disclose a specific date, but he and Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau both hinted that he could play as early as Wednesday against the Orlando Magic. Boozer has been cleared by the Bulls medical staff, now the decision is up to him. He's just trying to see how it responds over the next couple of days and how he can deal with the soreness.

"When my hand's ready," he said. "It will be my decision."

When he does return, how many minutes will he play?

Obviously, Thibodeau wants to see how Boozer's finger responds first, but it is clear that he will put him back in the starting lineup and see how things go. Boozer doesn't expect to be limited much at all. He wants to play his usual amount of minutes.

"I hope so," he said. "I better. That's what I came here for."

How will his arrival affect Derrick Rose -- and the rest of the team?:

Thibodeau isn't quite sure, but he is looking forward to finding out.

"I think it puts a lot of pressure on the [opposing] defense, particularly on the pick and roll," Thibodeau said. "When you put those two players on the pick and roll, you're going to have to commit more than one player. So, any time you can get two onto the ball, it makes easy offense for others. And Carlos has great versatility. He has a low post component where he can score. He's also a very good passer."

For his part, Boozer thinks jumping in with Rose will be seamless.

"Easy," he said. "I think it will be right there the moment we step out there together. We've talked about it a lot this whole season. I've been telling him, people are going to double team D, because he's dominating right now, so he's going to get a lot of double teams. As soon as they double him, you just try to move to the open [area] and let him make a play. Then, when you get the ball, you've got to make the right play. Either you have a shot, drive, or somebody else is wide open, too. I think it will be real easy. I've been playing pick and roll for a long time. I look forward to it."

Thibodeau and Boozer expect he’ll fit in with the rest of the team equally quickly.

"I've been able to be in most every practice,” Boozer said. “I've been able to watch us play in the games. I've been talking to the guys. I've been talking to Tibs. My mind has always been there. [It's] just I wasn't able to be out there physically. So now I'm out there physically, the adjustment's the same. We're a defensive-first team. We play inside-out. We play unselfish. We gang rebound. We're a very good rebounding team already and we're striving to improve. So from that perspective, I think it's an easy transition, because that's what we're going to do no matter who's in the Bull uniform."

How long before Boozer picks up the offense?

Both Thibodeau and Boozer don't think it will take long, because of all the time he has already spent with coaches trying to learn it.

"I've been watching it every day," Boozer said. "I started going through it maybe about a week and a half ago. Now that I've been able to get some of the handcuffs off a little bit, I've been going through it a lot more. So I feel very comfortable with our offense."

What kind of jolt will Boozer's presence provide?

Given all the hype surrounding his arrival, probably a big one. At least in the first couple of games.

"He's really hungry," Noah said. "I think he's ready to get out there. He's excited. I think he really likes the team. It was definitely good to have him back, though. He's a hell of a player."

Noah said it was important that Boozer has been traveling with the team throughout most of the year.

"It means a lot," he said. "It just shows what kind of guy he is. He didn't have to. He was on the road trip with us, just jelling with the guys. He's a very high character guy. I know he's real excited about coming back. Just in his first practice back, he definitely lifted the energy."

How does Boozer's return to the starting lineup affect Taj Gibson?

Not as much as you may think. Aside from not being in the starting lineup anymore, Thibodeau said Gibson would still get a lot of minutes and would be an integral part of the team. There will be times when Gibson and Boozer will be on the floor together. The biggest difference Thibodeau discussed is that Luol Deng's minutes may be trimmed just a little by Boozer's addition. Thibodeau said he likes Deng at the four position, but he is trying not to play Deng so many minutes early in the season.