Carlos Boozer unhappy with minutes
The veteran power forward has not played in the fourth quarter in the past two games and is clearly bothered by what he perceives as a lack of opportunity from coach Tom Thibodeau.
"I think I should be out there," said Boozer, who is in the midst of his worst season as a Bull. "But it's [Thibodeau's] choice. He makes the decisions out there, so I play. I don't coach. He coaches. So he decides that.
"But honestly, he's been doing that a lot since I've been here, not putting me in in the fourth quarter. Sometimes we win; more times than not, we don't. But that's his choice."
Thibodeau has been going with backup forward Taj Gibson late in games, mainly because Boozer's defensive struggles have been an issue since his first season in Chicago.
Thibodeau responded before the Bulls faced the Kings, saying both players are deserving.
"Both guys are critical for our team," he said. "I'm asking Taj to sacrifice not starting. In some cases, Carlos has to sacrifice not finishing. For us to achieve what we want to achieve both guys have to play very well for us.
"Right now the way it's going the last 10 games or so with Carlos dealing with a calf injury and Taj has really come on," he added. "I can only base it on performance. So when we're going down the stretch in the fourth quarter it's always going to be the group that gives us the best chance to win."
Boozer, who is averaging 14.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game this season, said it's tough to watch the end of games from the bench. He is averaging 29.8 minutes a game. In the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, he averaged 29.5 minutes a game.
"Super tough," Boozer said. "It's very frustrating, especially when I've got a great game going or what have you. Obviously as a competitor, you want to be out there to help your team win and especially when the game is close. You can do things that can help your team win. Not being out there, all you could do is really cheer them on. But that's [Thibodeau's] choice."
"What you can't overlook is Taj is our most efficient scorer in the fourth quarter," Thibodeau said. "You're looking at a guy that's shooting 49 percent for the season in the fourth. The last five games he's shooting 58 percent. He's averaging over seven points a game [in the fourth] in the last five so he's been playing at a very, very high level.
"And when you look at the field goal percentage you're looking at a guy who's shooting 49 percent in the fourth quarter for the season. Only Mike Dunleavy is shooting [better]."
Boozer, who could have the amnesty clause used on the final year of his contract after this season, sounds certain that Thibodeau knows how he feels about the fourth-quarter situation.
"He's aware of that," Boozer said. "I feel great, body feels great. I think I'm very productive in the limited minutes that I am getting, so I can do even more if I was out there more, but as long as we're winning, that's the main thing.
"But yeah, I do want to be out there in the fourth quarter. Let's make that clear."
Thibodeau confimed that he's aware of Boozer's frustrations.
"Carlos has a lot of pride and he should want to play. But you also, you got to get it done too," Thibodeau said. "You can't play everybody. Joakim [Noah] has gone to a completely different level. And Carlos is going to play some in the fourth. Right now Taj has got the hot hand, so that's the way we're going. But that doesn't mean it will stay that way. We need both those guys for us to get to where we want to go, we need both those guys playing well. Both guys are critical to our team so that's the way I look at it."
What's clear is that Boozer is unhappy, and he understands it has affected the perception people have of his game.
"I can't worry about that," Boozer said. "I don't know what [the] perception is, but the reality is it's Thib's decision. It is frustrating when you're having a great game and you're not out there to help your team win at the end of games."
For his part, Thibodeau is taking the comments in stride.
"Hey look, it's the NBA. It's a long season. As I said, I don't want anyone putting themselves before the team," he said. "I want to make that clear. Carlos, for the most part, he's never done that before. I don't know the context in which it was said. But as I said, it's my job to get the best out of everyone and to do what's best for the team. So that's what I'll do. I'll always do it and that's not going to change."