Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thubodeau is not one to ever call out one of his own players publicly. It’s one of the reasons why the coach hasn’t lost the team over the last two years of injuries and disappointing results for a franchise that thought it had positioned itself to make title runs at this point, not just fighting to stay around .500.
So when Carlos Boozer went public with his displeasure over his crunch-time minutes, it was a shot across the bow for both Thibodeau and the organization as a whole.
At issue for Boozer is his lack of playing time in the fourth quarter of games.
“I think I should be out there,” Boozer told ESPNChicago.com before Monday’s shootaround in Sacramento. “But it’s Thibs’ 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.”
It’s the first time a Bulls player has ever come close to opening criticizing Thibobeau, something the coach patently does not do.
Overall this season, Boozer has played in 45 of the Bulls’ 48 games, averaging 29.9 minutes. In the fourth quarter, however, Boozer hasn’t played at all in 18 games and in the 27 games he has played, he’s averaged just 4.7 minutes.
And Gibson has produced better offensively, hitting 48.3 percent of his fourth-quarter shots and 78 percent of his free throws in the final period. Boozer is shooting just 39 percent in his fourth-quarter action and shooting only 73.3 percent from the line.
But the reason Gibson gets more run than Boozer is his superior defense, never a Boozer strong-point. Boozer’s defensive rating is 99.2 points per 100 possessions overall, compared to 97.0 for Gibson. In the fourth period, though, Boozer’s D-rating is 105.5, compared to 102.2 for Gibson.
Offense has always been what kept Boozer on the floor, certainly on the floor ahead of Gibson. But in terms of fourth-quarter offensive rating, here’s what’s so startlingly different in the comparisons between Gibson and Boozer. Gibson has a fourth-quarter O-rating of 103.0. Boozer’s is just 94.8.
Which player would you rather have on the floor when the chips are down?
There continues to be rumors swirling that the Bulls will pull the trigger this summer and exercise their amnesty clause relief to clear the $16.8 million Boozer is still owed for 2013-14 off the books. The production isn’t meeting the demand. When normalizing Boozer’s numbers per 36 minutes, Boozer is averaging 17.8 points and 10.4 rebounds on 45.2 percent shooting. The points are at their lowest level since his second season in 2003-04, the rebounds at their lowest point since 2005-06 and his shooting is at a career-worst pace—his previous low is 47.7 percent, last season.
Boozer’s comments can’t make the amnesty process go any faster. But they also don’t win him a lot of favors from a coach who has publicly defended Boozer more times than anyone can count.