Jazz manifesto: Boozer, Korver and Brewer now Bulls
When it comes to jazz greats, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane quickly come to mind—with, of course, some Duke and Dizzy thrown in for good measure. With the recent arrival of three former Utah teammates via free agency, perhaps it’s safe to assume Bulls GM Gar Forman’s iPod has some pretty sweet-sounding tunes downloaded.
Chicago’s top offseason prize owns both a gold and bronze medal from the Olympics. He was an All-American and a starter at Duke on the Blue Devils’ 2001 NCAA championship title team. He’s also a two-time NBA All-Star who led the league in rebounding during this past season’s playoffs. Targeted from day one of the just concluded free agency sweepstakes, Bulls fans will soon see power forward Carlos Austin Boozer Jr. running up and down the United Center hardwood sporting John Paxson’s old number 5.
And Boozer’s not coming alone. Forman’s lucky pen saw a lot of action over the summer as a couple of Boozer’s best buddies, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver, have also jumped to the Windy City to form a Chicago Jazz trio that most believe will make the Bulls one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
The 6’9”, 260-pound Boozer, impeccably dressed in a button-down aqua shirt and tan suit with matching aqua tie and pocket square, and looking relaxed despite facing a grilling by dozens of internet, newspaper, TV and radio reporters, was officially introduced as a Chicago Bull on July 9.
“I’m extremely happy to be here, and I’m looking forward to getting going,” said the confident Boozer, 28, who quickly summed up what he brings to the team: “I’m very comfortable in the post. I think I do a good job of creating space and using my strength to get to the basket. I like to score in the post but at the same time, I have no trouble passing. I look forward to bringing that presence to Chicago. This is a perfect fit.”
“Post players with the skills Carlos has are at a premium, and we think we’ve landed one of the best in the league,” said Forman. “He’s energetic, he’s got a great personality, he’s got passion and he’s in his prime. He’ll be able to grow with our other guys.”
That prowess in the post, which Boozer showcased with Utah’s All-Star playmaker Deron Williams the last five years, should translate well to Chicago’s All-Star floor general, Derrick Rose, whom Boozer said might be the most athletic point guard he’s ever seen.
“I’m really looking forward to playing with Derrick,” Boozer says. “We can push the ball up-tempo. And, with his speed and athleticism, we can run half-court things, pick and rolls.”
A couple of days prior to Boozer’s official introduction, Rose was elated when asked about the Bulls latest addition. “Carlos will definitely help us,” said Derrick. “This organization always finds a way to pick good guys. Carlos has played in winning organizations all his life. We need a winner.”
For Utah last season, Boozer averaged 19.5 points and 11.2 rebounds, while shooting a career-best 56.2 percent from the field in 78 games. Over his eight-year NBA career, he has averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds.
“He’s played in 44 playoff games, and he’s as good as they come in the league when it comes to pick-and-rolls,” says Chicago’s new head coach, Tom Thibodeau, who in his 21 NBA seasons on the bench, has seen plenty of pick-and-roll play. “Carlos has got great hands. If the ball’s near him, he’s going to get it. He can finish with either his left or right, and his rebounding is simply off the charts.”
“When I was in Houston,” added Thibs, “we played against Utah a lot, and Carlos was incredibly difficult to defend. In fact, I’d say he was impossible to guard—he killed us every time.
“The way he competes, the experience he brings, these are things anyone would love about him as a player.”
And in the wake of LeBron mania, the idea that signing of Boozer is some sort of consolation prize is quickly dismissed, especially given that two his former Utah teammates, Korver, considered the top perimeter shooter in the league, and Brewer, a smothering defensive force, both inked three-year deals with the Bulls soon after Boozer landed on Chicago’s West Side.
“I definitely don’t look at Carlos as some sort of consolation prize. I’m thrilled that we got him,” Thibodeau insists. “With Derrick off the dribble, Carlos in the post, Luol (Deng) moving without the ball, Joakim at center, Kyle knocking down three-pointers and Ronnie shutting down lead guards, we’ve got a lot of great pieces in place.”
Originally selected in the second round (35th overall) of the 2002 NBA Draft by Cleveland, Boozer played two seasons with the Cavs before signing with Utah in July 2004. Last season—as one of only 10 players in the league who averaged a double-double—he started 78 games with the Jazz, averaging 19.5 ppg, 11.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.08 blocks in a little over 34 minutes per game. He shot a career-high 56 percent from the field and 74 percent from the free-throw line.
Boozer, who was pursued by a number of teams, sees Chicago as the perfect fit. “I had a great time in Salt Lake City and enjoyed every moment I spent there, but this is the best decision for me, personally and professionally. That’s why I’m now in Chicago.”
When asked where he ranks the 2010-11 Bulls in the East, Boozer puts his new squad at the top, despite Miami’s new triumvirate of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
“You get on the court and give it everything you’ve got,” Boozer explained, when asked about the new-look Heat. “You can’t be afraid to play somebody because they have three really good players. How are you ever going to win if you’re afraid? We’re going to fight, we’re going to attack, we’re going to throw it out there and let’s just see what happens.”
Maybe being a dad with wife CeCe to twin three-year-olds, Cameron and Cayden, and a four-year-old, Carmani—all boys—has helped Boozer learn to be calm when staring in the face of a storm. “I love having boys,” he says with a grin. “You just throw them out there and let ‘em wrestle.”
And maybe the fact that Carmani had to endure treatment for sickle cell anemia a few years ago, including a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy—thankfully he’s now healthy, happy and 100 percent back to normal—has given Boozer the chance to fully embrace and appreciate every opportunity life offers.
“I’m a big believer in learning from life’s experiences,” Boozer says. “You can read books all you want, and you can listen to other people’s stories. But if you pay attention to your own life, it may be the best lesson God can give you.”
Kyle Korver & Ronnie Brewer
When Boozer was asked about the chances of Kyle Korver joining him in Chicago at his first Bulls press conference, he simply winked and gave a sly smile. Little did the packed room know that in less than two hours, the Bulls would announce that 6’7”, 212-pound sharpshooter would also be coming to Chicago.
The Creighton University grad, who’s one of the top perimeter threats in the league, signed a three-year deal with the Bulls and is expected to help spread the court for Rose and Boozer.
Korver, 29, who was born in California but moved to Pella, Iowa, at age 10, set an NBA record last season, shooting a league-best 53.6 percent from 3-point land—the highest anyone has ever accomplished since the NBA instituted the three-point shot back in 1976.
In his seven seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers and the Jazz, Korver’s a 41 percent 3-point marksman and an 88 percent free-throw shooter. He’s thrilled to be near home and is looking forward to playing with another All-Star point guard in Derrick Rose.
“I’m really excited,” Korver told the Salt Lake Tribune, soon after his Bulls signing was announced. “I’m glad the process is over. I’m feeling really good about the team, the situation. It’s a great young team. Being closer to home is also going to be fun for me. There are a lot of positives playing in Chicago.”
Quality perimeter shooting proved to be a real need for the Bulls last year, especially after Ben Gordon left the summer before as free agent. That need only increased when longtime team captain and the franchise’s all-time leading three-point shooter, Kirk Hinrich, was dealt to Washington on Draft night.
Long distance dialing is Korver’s specialty. “Kyle is, without question, one of the best three-point shooters to ever play in the NBA,” Forman unabashedly proclaims. “We’re getting a player we think is in his prime of his career, and someone who wanted to be here.”
“I thought the Bulls were the best fit,” Korver adds. “The team needed some shooting and I’m very comfortable playing with Booz, and obviously I love the direction this team is going. I feel like I fit really well here.”
Brewer, 25, gives the Bulls the defensive-minded, athletic big-guard they’ve lacked since Thabo Sefolosha was dealt to Oklahoma City in February, 2009.
“I think Kyle and I complement each other really well,” Brewer says. “Kyle’s a three-point assassin. He’s deadly from long range. I don’t shoot a lot of threes, but I do a lot of other things that seem to compliment his game.
“The one constant I bring each and every night is defense. There are going to be nights when you don’t fill up the stat sheet with a lot of points. But you can always play hard. You can get after it on defense. That’s what I bring. Every night I’m going to play as hard as I can and do whatever it takes to help us win games.”
Summing up both his and his old/new teammates’ feelings, Boozer called the Bulls a team that wants to win, not just now, but for many years to come. “We have a bunch of guys who work hard, great players who want to get better, and we have a new coach who’s also hungry to win and who’s been a winner in the past. We want to win championships. That’s why we’re all here.”