Posted Oct 28 2010 4:58PM
"By the end of the year you'll be writing Derrick Rose is the best point guard in the league."
That prediction was courtesy of Carlos Boozer as the NBA season tipped off this week. As for when Boozer, the two-time All-Star, begins his Chicago career after suffering a broken hand in early October ... well, he wasn't quite as bold with that call.
"I don't have a date," Boozer said. "I won't know until I get my cast off and get the pins out."
Boozer has a target he's shooting for, though he's keeping it private to avoid any unnecessary pressure or build some false anticipation of when he should be back on the court. "In my mind I have a date circled," he relented.
The expected recovery time for an injury such as Boozer's is 8-10 weeks. Boozer needed surgery on his shooting hand after tripping over a bag of ice at home and landing awkwardly. He's progressing on schedule, with the hard cast coming off and the pins in his hand scheduled to be removed Tuesday.
Boozer isn't sure what the next phase of rehab will entail, other than range of motion and strengthening exercises. In the meantime, he hasn't backed off conditioning drills or getting in the weight room. He's also attending every practice and traveling with the Bulls.
Boozer also realizes that once he's physically cleared to play, there's another rehab waiting. That will be to work his way into the rotation on a team that's probably at least a month into the season.
Chemistry must be managed and massaged. The adjustment won't happen overnight.
"There are going to be some moments," Boozer admitted, "but I'm not concerned about that because I have good guys around me. I'm at every practice, so I know the plays already. I'm staying in great shape and able to work out. For me, it's just going to be getting comfortable playing with everybody."
Boozer is watching closely while he sits. How does Rose run the pick and roll? Where does Luol Deng like the ball? What are Joakim Noah's tendencies in the post? How is rookie coach Tom Thibodeau bringing it all together?
"The good thing about me is I'm a Duke guy," he quipped. "I'll pick it up fast. I'm excited. Honestly, when you come to a new team that's one of the challenges you have and I'm looking forward to doing that.
"For me, I'm just embracing the challenge of how fast we establish chemistry. Can we do it right away? That's one of the challenges we all have and it's double with me because I haven't been playing with them."
While he won't publicly predict his return date, Boozer had plenty of opinions on the new season. He's as anxious as anyone to see how it plays out in Miami and how that collection of talent deals with the endless scrutiny. One thing he's not buying is the notion of the Lakers flying under the radar with all heat focused on South Beach.
"That's impossible. I'm not believing that," Boozer said. "They're two-time defending champions. They're going for their third title and they're the champs until somebody dethrones them. The championship goes through L.A. and I think they win the West. There are some very good teams out West, but I just don't see anybody beating them in a seven-game series.
"Now I hope my team meets them in the Finals."
It was an interesting opening night for the men in the middle in both Dallas and Oklahoma City. A budding controversy may be brewing in Big D, where Brendan Haywood was promised the starting job during his free-agency courtship but came off the bench behind Tyson Chandler in the opener against Charlotte.
It's not as if Mavs coach Rick Carlisle reneged on Haywood. The first-team promise came at a time when the only center on the roster was Erick Dampier.
Haywood signed a six-year deal for $54 million before circumstances changed. The arrival of Chandler, USA Basketball's starting center at the World Championships, muddied the waters. Both centers rotated throughout the preseason.
"They're both top 10 centers in the league," Carlisle told reporters after the game. "I don't think there's any question about that, so you can flip a coin."
The coin came up Chandler, who Carlisle praised for the " dynamic athleticism" he brings the first team alongside Dirk Nowitzki. Haywood teamed up with another former starter, Shawn Marion, to form the bench's frontline. Carlisle added that he's not "married" to this rotation.
Chandler and Haywood both took the high road after the win over the Bobcats. Still, there's potential for drama, considering Haywood's "I just work here" stance after being benched in favor of Dampier last season. Or this could be nothing if the Mavs are winning and both big men are contributing.
The potential for fireworks isn't as great in the Thunderdome, even though backup Serge Ibaka thoroughly outplayed starter Nenad Krstic in Oklahoma City's win over Chicago. Their peaceful coexistence has a lot to do with Scott Brooks' consistent starting lineup and the gap of experience between Krstic and Ibaka.
Brooks' first unit last season, which included Krstic, was unwavering, and such stability has proven important to building the confidence of this young team. Ibaka, 21, is easily an athletic upgrade over the 27-year-old pick-and-pop Serbian. The Thunder's defense was certainly more physical during Wednesday's fourth-quarter run with Ibaka on the floor.
Still, don't expect Brooks to change a formula that's worked well. There just may be a number of nights where Ibaka doubles Krstic's minutes, as he did in the opener.
It's a record year for two sources of NBA players. Opening night rosters had a new high of 84 international players and a record-tying 63 with NBA Development League experience.
Almost every team in the league had at least one international player (28 of 30) and one former D-Leaguer (29). The international players represent 38 countries and territories, besting the previous mark of 83 players from 37 countries and territories in 2006-07.
The D-League climb is more dramatic. While the total number stayed static from last season, league rosters had just 35 D-Leaguers four years ago. Cleveland, Dallas and Minnesota led the way with four players with time spent in the NBA's minor circuit.
The global melting pot that is Toronto had a league leading six international players, each from a different country. Dallas and Utah each have five.
1. Monta Ellis had the highest-scoring opener (46) since Michael Jordan's 54-point bang 21 years ago. Almost lost in Ellis' night: Stephen Curry racked up 25. That's 71 points from the diminutive duo. or 5.7 points for every foot of guard.
2. Wednesday in Denver was about George Karl and nothing else. As it should have been.
3. Boston's loss at Cleveland on Wednesday was the biggest letdown in the second game of the regular season/road opener in NBA history. Right?
4. The Rockets are holding firm on their promise to handle Yao Ming with care. Yao played just 23 minutes in the opener against the Lakers and sat out the second night of a back-to-back at Golden State. Houston is also 0-2. That part of the plan is not working as nicely.
5. Friday's visit by Orlando to Miami is the most anticipated third game of the regular season/home opener in NBA history. Right?
On being depicted as Thor, the god of thunder, on ESPN The Magazine's NBA issue with LeBron James and Kobe Bryant:
"I don't even know who Thor is. It was cool to share the cover with LeBron and Kobe."
On the idea that LeBron been treated unfairly:
"I don't really think he did anything wrong, to be honest."
Surprised by Miami losing its opener?
"It's going to take time. It took time with Boston. They went through some tough times as well. Both of those guys [LeBron and Dwyane Wade] are used to always controlling the ball. If those guys figure out how to play off each other a little bit, they're going to be a great team."
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