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2. Carlos Boozer. Honestly, I'm not a big fan. As Phil Jackson noted earlier this season, when the Lakers and Jazz tussled in the playoffs it was rarely Boozer but instead Paul Millsap who did the damage out of that spot. Boozer is a bad defender who rarely seems to rise to the occasion. But he does add a new wrinkle to the matchup, no question. To find out how he's changed things for the Bulls, I hit up our man in the Windy City, ESPNChicago's Nick Friedell:
"With Boozer in the lineup, the Bulls finally have the back to the basket scorer they've been missing for years. The veteran forward gives the team a consistent second scoring option to go alongside Derrick Rose and his presence on the floor spaces out the floor for Rose and co. to operate. Boozer is also a very good passer and has already worked well at times with Joakim Noah.
Offense has never been much of an issue for Boozer, though. The biggest problem for the Bulls with him back on the court is that they are not as good defensively. It looks like he is a step behind everybody still and it's going to take a while for him to pick up all of Tom Thibodeau's schemes. Even then, he won't be as good as Taj Gibson was on defense, but the Bulls will happily take that trade for the time being, given the offensive boost Boozer can provide"
3. Context. If you believe Jackson when he said this is his "last stand," Friday's game becomes his final in Chicago as a head coach, barring a meeting of these teams in the NBA Finals. That it's Dec. 10 mitigates some of what would be a more-heavily-anticipated event (you may have heard Jackson had some success earlier in his career with the Bulls, no thanks to this outfit), but I'm still pretty curious how the whole thing will be received. As we learned talking to Friedell before the first game, Chicagoans still think of P.J. as their guy. Jackson is noncommittal when it comes to comparing the success of one half of his career to the other. He isn't an overtly sentimental guy, either.
Still, it's a significant start to a through line likely to grow stronger whether Jackson likes it or not. "Hey Phil, how does it feel to be (insert location here) for the last time?" "Hey Phil, it's your last _________. What do you think about that?"
It's unlikely he'll enjoy this sort of thing, but it's going to become an ever-increasing part of the gig.
Jackson isn't the only person with an emotional stake in Friday's game. Shannon Brown, who grew up in Maywood, Ill., about 10 miles west of downtown Chicago, always gets charged up to play in front of his friends and family (of which I believe there will be many at the game). In Game 1 of this year's Lakers/Bulls series, Brown was outstanding, with 21 points (including five triples), 4 boards, 3 dimes, a steal and a block in a season high 28 minutes of play.
Part of what has made Brown so good this year is a better-developed sense of control over his game. He's letting shots and opportunities come to him, displaying greater understanding of the offense and his role inside it. Brown told me Wednesday things on the court have slowed down considerably for him. The challenge Friday will be to avoid speeding things back up.