Struggling Boozer dealing with turf toe

Carlos Boozer scored just two points in 15 and a half minutes in the Bulls' series clinching Game 5 victory over the Indiana Pacers 116-89. He also sat for the final 18 plus minutes of the game -- with Taj Gibson playing well on both ends of the court, there seemed no need for Boozer.

However, Boozer told reporters after the game that he suffered an injury during the Bulls' dismantling of the Pacers: Turf toe on his right foot.

It's as if Boozer can't catch a break.

Boozer told K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune that he heard a pop from his right foot, which is never a good sign, but he'll get six days in between games as the Bulls will face the winner of the Orlando Magic-Atlanta Hawks series on Tuesday, May 2nd.

"We'll just see how it goes every day, try to get the pain out of it,"
Boozer said. "I'm in a great deal of pain. But I got until the next
round starts."

It's very easy to do so, but Bulls fans should wait before judging Boozer. He had a rough first round, averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds on 36 percent shooting, and was a complete train wreck defensively at times, but the Bulls paid him $75 million. He isn't going anywhere because of the contract. No one wants that price tag on their books; Bulls fans have to live with the fact that he's staying here for at least three years of the contract.

A team could inquire about Boozer, who was given a five-year contract by the Bulls, in his fourth season under the contract, but it just doesn't make sense, with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement looming, that a team wants to touch Boozer's contract. It simply won't happen.

Boozer was fantastic for the Bulls before the All-Star break, averaging nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds. Those are numbers the front office and fans looked at and thought to themselves, "Yeah, we got this signing right."

But it hasn't gone that way since as Boozer's averaged just around 14 points and eight rebounds since the All-Star break (including the playoffs). He played much more aggressive in the first half of the season than the second, giving the Bulls exactly what they wanted: A low-post presence.

The Bulls didn't do a great job of feeding him the ball in the post early in the series, but they have done so the past three games. Boozer averaged around 10 shots during the five-game series, including five attempts in Game 5 and 15 in Game 2.

One major change in his game since the first half has been free-throw shooting. He's never been a great free-throw shooter, but for a big man, 70 percent (regular season) is respectable. In the playoffs, Boozer's free-throw percentage has gone up nearly one percent (70.6), however, he's getting there much less than he did earlier this season.

In 36 games before the All-Star break, Boozer averaged four and a half free-throw attempts. In 23 games after, he's averaged about one less free-throw. That might not seem like a catastrophic difference, but for a player who loves to draw contact, it's puzzling to see his free-throw attempts so low -- especially since most of the time he's looking for the contact. The latter, also leads to plenty of offensive fouls for Boozer.

He averaged nearly four fouls in the first round, and had a habit of picking up two quick ones in the first quarter. Boozer started Game 1 scoring eight points in the first quarter, however, his good play was short-lived: Boozer went to the bench with a minute left in the first quarter with two fouls; then, he picked up his third foul five minutes into the second quarter, a minute into his re-entrance.

Boozer showed an inability to stay on the court for long stretches because of foul trouble in the first round. Many of the fouls were ticky-tack, boneheaded fouls, too. He's giving the Bulls, and himself, the raw end of the deal.

"We have to figure out a way to keep him out of foul trouble," Coach Tom Thibodeau
said after Game 5. "It's hard to get into a rhythm when you are picking up quick
fouls. We're taking a good look at it to see if we can help him out so
he can help us out."

The Bulls need Boozer to help out and give them a consistent option in the low-post. Derrick Rose averaged nearly 28 points on 37 percent shooting against the Pacers; ideally, the Bulls would love to reduce the former and increase the latter.

As good as Rose was against the Pacers, the Bulls won't get to the NBA Finals with Carlos Boozer averaging 10 points. It was his worst average in a playoff series in his career.

Just like with Joakim Noah, the Bulls need Boozer to return back to his old self -- injured or not. Hopefully, sooner rather than later.

Taj Gibson--Game 5.jpg

Photo from Yahoo! Sports

Taj comes to play: With Boozer struggling in Game 5, Gibson played big for the Bulls as they got past the first round for the second time since 1998.

Gibson scored 10 points and added seven rebounds in 30 minutes against the Pacers. The defense was much more active with Gibson rather than Boozer and he even provided spacing, hitting three of four from 15-feet and beyond.

For the fans who think Gibson will potentially start over Boozer at some point: No chance. Boozer has struggled, but there's no chance the front office and Thibodeau would replace Boozer in the starting lineup with Gibson.

Gibson was plus 19 in Game 5, while Boozer was plus 4. The plus/minus stat can be fluky, but it certainly wasn't Tuesday night.

Fans might say the Bulls would be better with Gibson in the starting lineup and Boozer on the bench. Well, they'd be much better with Boozer simply getting his act together period.   

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