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NBA notes: Benching won't faze Bulls' Carlos Boozer

By K.C. Johnson

Chicago Tribune

Published: Friday, Jan. 7 2011 11:03 p.m. MST

New Chicago Bulls player Carlos Boozer seated between Bulls GM Gar Forman,left,and head coach Tom Thibodeau,right, points towards the six championship banners at a press conference in the Berto Center which is the Chicago Bulls practice facility located in Deerfield Illinois on Friday July 9, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Cherney)

Charles Cherney, AP

PHILADELPHIA — On Dec. 18, 2009 in Atlanta, Carlos Boozer exited a blowout loss to the Hawks along with his four fellow Jazz starters with 5 minutes, 50 seconds left in the third quarter and never returned.

The next night in Charlotte, Boozer dropped 22 points and 11 rebounds in a road victory over the Bobcats.

On Nov. 11, 2009 in Boston, Boozer and Mehmet Okur were singled out and benched for an eight-minute stretch of the third quarter and for more than five minutes in the fourth during a loss to the Celtics. Boozer responded by averaging 23.7 points and 14 rebounds in his next three games, two of them Jazz victories.

The point is: You don't play six seasons for Jerry Sloan without developing thick skin.

Tom Thibodeau is no Sloan. But his benching of Boozer for the final 14:21 of the Bulls' loss to the Nets on Wednesday night displayed a similar demand for defensive accountability.

Look for Boozer to respond positively.

Thibodeau's postgame comments that Boozer sat because the Nets' utilization of a smaller lineup and zone defenses demanded more perimeter shooting weren't lies. Each time Thibodeau has made a coaching decision that has led to second-guessing — not bringing the starters back late in Nov. 4 home loss to the Knicks, inserting John Lucas III late for two critical missed free throws in Nov. 26 road loss to the Nuggets — he has answered with detailed basketball reasons for doing so.

But don't think that Boozer's benching also didn't have something to do with Kris Humphries' big night (that included five offensive rebounds) and rookie Derrick Favors beating Boozer downcourt twice to open the second half. The latter led to Thibodeau burning a 20-second timeout just 63 seconds into the third quarter.

The benching clearly perturbed Boozer, who offered short answers during a brief session with reporters late Wednesday. Twice he answered with, "You have to talk to Coach Thibs about that. That was a coaching decision."

The Bulls held a team film session instead of practicing on Thursday, during which Thibodeau surely pointed out Boozer's defense and Humphries' and Favors' highlights. Thibodeau doesn't see contracts or so-called status in such situations. He demands accountability regardless.

Players have said all season that Thibodeau has been consistent with his approach and demands no matter who the player is. A safe guess is that both Thibodeau and Boozer will downplay the issue at Friday's morning shootaround.

If Tweets are reliable indicators, Boozer seemed in a positive frame of mind on Thursday: "Be Thankful For The Blessings We Have ... Instead Of Worrying About What We Don't Have."

Thibodeau actually answered more defensively when asked about Luol Deng's heavy minutes than when questioned about sitting Boozer. Deng has played an astounding 45:25 of 48 second-half minutes the last two games and has logged 40 or more minutes in six of seven games.

All three seasons in which Deng has missed significant time, the injuries came after both the new year and him playing heavy minutes early. Granted, the torn ligament in his right wrist that he suffered his rookie year, the left Achilles' tendinitis he suffered in 2007-08 and the stress fracture he had in his right tibia in 2008-09 are unrelated, somewhat freak injuries.

But Deng trails only Monta Ellis and Rudy Gay with his average of 39.1 minutes per game.

"I'm fine," Deng said.

Will the Bulls be? Despite 14 victories in 17 games, Boozer's benching has brought some minor adversity.

It's nothing that some double-doubles can't cure.

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