The Chicago Bulls surprised everyone but themselves Monday night. They went into Miami, a place where the Heat had only lost four times this season and took a crucial Game 1 in the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 93-86 win.
Going into the regular season, optimism was at a low point for the Chicago Bulls fan base.
But after a 29-18 start that has them in 1st place in the Central division and 3rd place in the Eastern Conference (just a couple games behind the Knicks and Heat), the outlook on the Bulls’ 2012-2013 season has quickly changed.
Boozer, since being signed as a free agent from the Utah Jazz and heading to Chicago in the summer of 2010, has largely been a disappointment. Although the PPG/RPG totals in his first two years with the Bulls have been solid (17.5/9.6; 15.0/8.5), he’s been constantly criticized for his lackluster defense and inconsistent offense and rebounding.
Also, he’s been a far cry from the No. 2 the Bulls thought he’d be to PG Derrick Rose. But most importantly, he hasn’t been worth the $75 million that Bulls upper management thought he’d be deserving of. That is, until recently.
According to my estimation, Boozer had put up at least solid numbers in somewhere around 60% of the Bulls first 27 games this season. That’s decent, but nowhere not worth anywhere near $15 million.
But since Chicago’s game against the Washington Wizards on December 29th, Boozer has been on another level. As described by ESPN Chicago’s Bulls beat reporter Nick Friedell (many times on Twitter), it’s been his best stretch of play in a Bulls uniform … by far and away.
According to Boozer and his teammates, it comes down to comfort. He is said to “finally” be feeling comfortable within the Bulls scheme for the first time, about 2 1/2 years into his Chicago career.
When putting together a basketball team, unless you’re fortunate enough to have a star like LeBron James or Kevin Durant, the most traditional approach to take is to build the team around the two rarest and most valuable pieces a team can have: a great point guard and a great big man.
And when you look around the NBA, there’s just not many “greats” at either of those positions.
Everybody knows the Chicago Bulls have the point guard to build a team around in homegrown superstar and MVP Derrick Rose. However, not many people give them credit for having a top-of-the-line big man, which, they may indeed have currently blossoming in the windy city.
As I previewed on MSF just a few days ago, ABC and ESPN are bringing us a great NBA on Christmas Day slate of action starting at noon and going late into the night.