Carlos Boozer doesn’t suck.
When the Chicago Bulls signed then-free agent power forward Carlos Boozer to a 5-year, $75,000,000 contract on July 8, 2010, I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about it. With other free agents on the market such as LeBron James, A’mare Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and even Rudy Gay, I viewed the signing as more of a consolation prize than huge get for the Bulls. Perhaps I felt this way because the Bulls’ pursuit of James and Wade was so highly publicized, and it appeared that the team went all-out in an effort to sign one of the two, or both. Carlos Boozer was a good player and filled a need for the Bulls, but essentially the Bulls cleared a bunch of cap space to sign an undersized, injury-prone defensive liability who could score the basketball better than most frontcourt players in the league, but never actually carried his two previous teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Utah Jazz.
Boozer’s first season with the Bulls brought out the detractors, especially after he missed a chunk of the beginning of 2010-11 with a broken hand, which he suffered after tripping over a bag in his home. He averaged close to 18 points and 10 rebounds per game, but if not for point guard Derrick Rose’s MVP-level play, the Bulls would have been just another above-average team. Averaging less than 13 points per game in the playoffs won’t get you much love, either, as Boozer also shot an awful 43% from the floor in the 2011 playoffs. The 2011-12 regular season wasn’t that much better for Boozer, as his scoring and rebounding averages decreased rather significantly. Once again, he faltered in the playoffs, and the top-seeded Bulls were eliminated by the 8th-seeded Philadelphia 76ers.
There weren’t too many folks who didn’t clamor for the Bulls to amnesty or trade Boozer in the following offseason, and I was one of them. I didn’t believe he was horrible like so many others, but that he just wasn’t a great fit with the team. Once it became apparent that the Bulls weren’t going to amnesty or trade “Booz,” all I could do was hope that he’d somehow turn it around in 2012-13, even though that would be a tall task without the services of Rose, who was expected to miss most of 12-13 with a torn ACL.
Somehow, some way, Booz has pleased more than disappointed during the 12-13 campaign. No, I’m not writing this because of his efforts in the Bulls’ last 3 games, in which he has averaged 27.3 points and 11.3 rebounds while shooting 60% from the floor, all Bulls wins. Simply put, Boozer has been more of a pleasure to watch, all around. Sure, there have been moments where his lack of attention to detail on the defensive end has cost the Bulls, and he has definitely had a crappy game here and there. Booz has committed costly turnovers, missed too many damn free throws and still relies a bit too much on perimeter play when he is built like a bulldozer in human form.
However, Booz has played fairly well in spite of his shortcomings. I believe this can be attributed to two factors: Head coach Tom Thibodeau leaning on Boozer more late in games, and more offensive touches. Initially, it was a shock to see the high-paid PF on the bench in the fourth quarter in close games, but then we realized it was due to his defensive inabilities. Also, with Derrick Rose in the lineup, everyone’s touches were down, including Boozer’s. I screamed at my TV and newspaper for Thibs to at least play Booz 30 minutes a game, and his numbers in those games in 12-13 prove that it should happen more often. When Booz plays 30+ minutes, the Bulls are 10-6 and he averages 19.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 53% from the field. Who knows if this trend will continue. Center Joakim Noah has had something to do with it, as his passes have led to some easy buckets for Booz. And obviously, without Rose, Booz is the clear go-to option on offense, giving him more opportunities to make plays. It helps that Booz has been healthy, too. All I know is that I have defended Booz more than lambasted him, and it feels good to see him succeed more than fail…for now.
Everyone gets a trophy!
I’d like to begin this portion of the post by stating that I do not hate SEC football. The attention it gets from the media is a little unnerving, but I’m more focused on regular foes of Sparty. I don’t watch college football games with SEC participants and pray and hope for the other team to obliterate them. While I do feel the conference is overrated, I have admitted on numerous occasions that no other conference in the country can boast that it has at least three teams (Alabama, Florida and LSU) that are perennial national title contenders. Alabama head coach Nick Saban will forever be on my shit list, but damn, can that man recruit and coach his stern ass off.
Last night marked the end of the college football season. The 2nd-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide dominated the top-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the BCS title game, 42-14. I assume the outcome could have been worse, too. Bama jumped out to a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter and never looked back. The score was 28-0 at halftime, and what more than a few people figured would be a close game was starting to look more and more like a laugher. It was clear from the start that Notre Dame was outmatched and that Bama is just a damn machine on a college football field. Bama running back Eddie Lacy was named the offensive MVP of the game and his teammate, linebacker C.J. Mosley took home the defensive honors. This was the Crimson Tide’s third national title in four years, and it doesn’t appear that they will be knocked off of their perch by anyone, any time soon.
I grew up cheering for Michigan football, and thus, disliked Notre Dame. Once I became a student at Michigan State, my disdain for the Domers ratcheted up even more. So while a part of me wanted to see ND lose, a bigger part of me wanted to see the Tide fall (I can’t stand former Sparty HC Saban), even though I knew there was a slim chance of that occurring. When the game was over, there was no denying who the best team in college football has been all year. What struck me as amusing were the plethora of SEC football fans on my Twitter timeline who began to profess SEC dominance. I’m talking about South Carolina, Kentucky, Ole Miss and even a Vanderbilt fan who used every opportunity they had to let us non-SECers know that their conference is better than ours.
My problem with that terrible logic is that Alabama won the national title, not the entire SEC. Yes, an SEC team has won the last seven national titles, but again, the trophy is not shared by the entire conference. In fact, unless you are a fan of Bama, LSU, Florida or Auburn (Cam Newton and Nick Fairley were beasts, weren’t they?), you don’t really have much to brag about, if anything at all. The last seven champs are as follows: Florida, LSU, Florida, Alabama, Auburn, Alabama, Alabama. How exactly can a conference scream utter dominance when only 4 out of 12 teams (I exclude SEC newcomers Texas A&M and Missouri) have not only won, but appeared in the last seven national title games? You have to go back to 1998 to witness another example of SEC greatness, when quarterback Tee Martin and wide receiver Peerless Price led Tennessee to the national title over Florida State. To further let any SEC football fan who isn’t a fan of the last four national champs know that they have nothing to brag about, those same four schools have won the last seven SEC conference title games, as well.
Another terrible argument was the SEC’s 6-3 record in bowl games this season. It’s impressive unless you actually watched the games or looked at the final results. Quickly, now: Vandy beat a North Carolina St. team that finished .500…in the ACC. Despite losing by only one, LSU was thoroughly dominated by Clemson, another ACC school. Mississippi St. lost by two touchdowns to Northwestern. Georgia struggled with Nebraska (who gave up 70 points in the Big 10 conference title game) through 3 quarters before finally pulling away. South Carolina needed its last possession to beat Michigan. Florida got spanked by the Big East’s Louisville in the Sugar Bowl. TAMU beat up on an overrated Oklahoma. Ole Miss whooped Pittsburgh in the Toilet Bowl. Aaand…ALABAMA.
Collectively, there is not a more talented football conference in the country than the SEC. I am intelligent enough to admit that. Big 10 football was clownshoes this year, and I have stated as much all season long. There was a time when I seriously disliked any SEC football fan I encountered, but now I can only chuckle at the majority of them. Please subscribe to this next piece of logic I am going to propose. If you are a fan of Arkansas, South Carolina, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Mississippi St., Ole Miss, Georgia, Tennessee or Auburn (2010 was an aberration, we have learned) football (again, I exlude conference TAMU and Mizzou), you are in the same boat as just about every other college football fan in America. You head into each year looking up to Alabama, Florida and LSU, and really don’t have more than a puncher’s chance at beating them. Everyone does not get a trophy; this isn’t tee ball. The sooner you realize this, the better off you will be. Make sure to thank Alabama, Florida and LSU for making you relevant, too.