Carlos Boozer remains optimistic

ATLANTA -- Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said Friday he wants to play through the pain of his turf toe injury, despite his struggles in the Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Atlanta Hawks.

Game 3 of the series, which is tied, is Friday night. After the morning shootaround, Boozer responded to criticism from former Bulls star Horace Grant, who told ESPNChicago.com Thursday that if Boozer can't produce, then he should sit.

"I don't agree with that," Boozer said. "I think if I'm out there and I can help my team, I will.

"My teammates want me to play if I can play. My coaches want me to play if I can play. And I can play, so I know I'm doing the right thing."

Bulls fans booed Boozer during Game 2 at United Center as he struggled through a 4-of-12 shooting performance.

"That's part of it, but I can't worry about that," Boozer said. "I worry about the guys in the locker room. We have a goal in mind, and I'm trying to play through what I have to play through to get to where we want to go."

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and teammates have come to Boozer's defense.

"When you boo one of us, you're booing all of us," Joakim Noah said Friday. "Because we're all in this together. That's the way we feel.

"Boozer's a tough guy, and he's experienced a lot in this league. We know to get to where we want to get to, we need Booz."

Even Hawks guard Jamal Crawford, who was drafted by the Bulls and played his first four seasons in Chicago, empathized with Boozer.

"It's tough on him, for sure," Crawford said. "You always want to impress your home fans before anybody else, so I'm sure it's tough.

"But the Chicago fans, they're pretty smart. So I think he'll be OK. Hopefully, it's not this series, but he'll be all right. I'm sure he's a tough minded guy. He's a veteran; he's been around."

Grant said Boozer may be doing more harm than good for the Bulls.

"If you're not producing more or if I feel you're hurting the team, especially in the playoffs, I'd bench you," Grant said.

Boozer is trying to remain optimistic.

"I want to score a little bit more points, I think my team needs it," he said. "I'm working through it, and I think the best games are ahead of me.

"It's tough, you want to be healthy, but we can fight through it. I'm going to fight through it and keep playing and looking forward to the next one tonight."

Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.