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Saturday, May 14, 2011
Updated: May 15, 4:42 PM ET
Carlos Boozer grateful to Bulls 'family'

By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- While Chicago Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer suffered through a slump, a painful turf toe injury and boos from many fans during the postseason, his teammates never wavered in their encouragement. It's a support that the veteran power forward appreciates.

"I love my teammates, man," Boozer said after Saturday afternoon's practice. "We've been defending each other all season, no matter who was going through what throughout the course of the year. We've always had each other's back. We're all like a family. A lot of people say that, but we really are. It felt great to have everybody on my side that's in this locker room and that's how we've been all season. And we don't listen to what you guys write about, talk about, we listen to each other. And we focus on what we talk about."

Boozer believes that the kind of support he received can help on the floor.

"Of course it does," he said. "When you have your teammates out there with you, you know the guy behind you has your back, he knows that you have his back. That's what a team is supposed to do."

The rest of the Bulls seem genuinely happy to see Boozer break out of his slump. He had his best game of the postseason in Thursday's clinching Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Atlanta Hawks, scoring 23 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.

Bulls point guard Derrick Rose believes Boozer was just "overthinking."

"When you're not playing as well as you're supposed to be playing, that's the only thing that you do, you overthink," Rose said after Friday's practice. "In this game you just got to play. You do whatever the game tells you to do, and at the time, Booz was just trying to force things. Now, he played great [Thursday] shooting the ball, not hesitating, making moves when he needs to and just speeding up his timing."

After Thursday's performance, Rose believes Boozer is back on track.

"It's huge," Rose said of the boost to Boozer's morale. "Definitely huge. We need him. We definitely need him. Everybody needs to come together now, but I think that we're there and we'll have to see how things go."

Boozer continues to say his toe is feeling better, while acknowledging that he is still playing through some pain. He's just looking forward to the challenge of facing the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals starting Sunday night.

Boozer realizes that the Heat will probably be favored, but he's all right with the Bulls playing the underdog role.

"We've been the underdog all season," Boozer said. "Nobody's really talking about us to start the season. Nobody was talking about us during the season. Nobody's talking about us now. For us, we're in the position we've been in all season. It's not unfamiliar territory. We've been in here all season long. Just been plugging away, getting better every day and that's what we'll continue to do. Keep plugging away and keep getting better."

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