Bulls charge into break on high note
Carlos Boozer’s grin was as wide as the lane.
The Chicago Bulls had just finished off another opponent, this
time old friend Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Bobcats, and he could
hardly contain himself.
At 38-16, the Bulls already have nearly as many wins as they did
in each of the previous two seasons (41) and are enjoying their
best season since the Jordan-Scottie Pippen championship era,
thanks to an offseason overhaul and Derrick Rose’s emergence as an
MVP candidate. They’re challenging for the Eastern Conference’s top
seed, right there with big, bad Boston, not to mention the South
Beach superstars in Miami and Superman a few hours north in
No wonder Boozer was smiling. And that was earlier in the week,
before Chicago knocked off San Antonio 109-99 on Thursday.
He sees wins piling up, contributions coming from all
”That’s what basketball’s about,” he said. ”It’s
And to think: The fun might just be starting.
Center Joakim Noah is expected to return from a thumb injury
next week, and maybe then, the Bulls will find out just how good
they really are.
They expected bigger things following an offseason overhaul that
left them with a new coach and only five returning players, and
they’re getting just that.
Rose made it clear from the start he wanted MVP consideration
and is backing it up, averaging 24.9 points and 8.2 assists. He was
voted in as the Bulls’ first All-Star starter since Jordan in 1998
after being selected as a reserve in his second season.
Luol Deng (17.6 points) is having arguably his best season.
Boozer (19.3 points, 9.9 rebounds) is delivering as expected
after being lured to Chicago with a five-year, $75 million deal,
yet the Bulls remain something of a mystery because their two best
big men have hardly played together.
Boozer missed the first 15 games because of a broken bone in his
right hand. Noah underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his
right thumb in mid-December, meaning they’ve played a grand total
of nine games together.
”It’s another quality big to add to the mix,” coach Tom
Thibodeau said. ”I think Jo got off to a great start.
Unfortunately, he got hurt, but that’s part of it. He’s done a
great job with his rehab, and we’re looking forward to him being
Noah was off to his best start before shutting it down,
averaging career highs in points (14.0) and rebounds (11.7).
”When he comes back, we’re going to be very tough,” Rose
They’re anything but pushovers at the moment.
The Bulls are an Eastern Conference-leading 15-4 since
back-to-back losses at New Jersey and Philadelphia, a surge that
started with a win over Boston on Jan. 8 and included victories
over Dallas and Orlando to go with that showing against San
Rose poured in a career-high 42 points against the Spurs after
outscoring Utah’s Deron Williams and New Orleans’ Chris Paul by a
combined 52-26 in recent victories.
Yes, the Bulls are looking good at the moment.
When they come back from the break, they’ll visit Toronto on
Wednesday before hosting Miami the next night in a matchup of two
of the league’s best defensive teams. Only the Heat (42.6 percent)
are holding opponents to a lower field goal percentage than Chicago
On the glass, the Bulls are right there at the top. They’re
outrebounding opponents by a league-leading 4.63 average and are
second to Minnesota in total rebounds per game at 44.04, despite
the absence of Boozer early on and Noah the past two months.
There’s depth. Role players are contributing.
”They’ve made a team commitment from the start,” Thibodeau
said. ”They’ve committed to playing together, playing unselfishly
at both ends of the floor, and they’ve committed to working hard
together. We felt going into the season that we had quality depth,
and I think it’s shown. … We’re counting on everybody, and we
know at some point in the season, we’re going to need
Associated Press freelance writer Mark Perlman in Chicago
contributed to this report.