It’s time to start fearing the Bulls.
It’s still highly unlikely that Chicago will get a No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, since that would require (among other things) the Heat to continue to underperform and the Celtics to check out of the regular season … again. But don’t be surprised if the Bulls finish with 50-something wins, cruise to a division title and scare the heck out of one of the East’s preordained elite in May.
After all, they’re 9-6 and just finished their annual circus road trip with a winning record (4-3) for the first time since 1998. That 9-6 record isn’t spectacular on its own, but put it into context: The Bulls were 6-9 after their big road trip last season and bottomed out at 14-20 before righting themselves, falling apart again and sprinting to an 8-3 finish just to secure a .500 record and the last playoff seed. They were 8-9 after the trip two seasons ago and fell to 21-28 before getting hot, finishing at .500 and losing a seven-game classic to Boston in the first round.
This year’s Chicago team has managed to avoid the annual subpar start despite missing its second-best offensive player (Carlos Boozer) and despite playing what John Hollinger’s power rankings classifies as the league’s toughest schedule. And it is too talented and too well-coached to sink into a midseason funk as it did in each of the last two seasons.
Boozer: Rose is 'amazing'
In the midst of the endless questioning as to when Carlos Boozer will actually make his debut for the Bulls, the veteran power forward had some interesting things to share regarding Derrick Rose. No matter when Boozer returns to the floor, he knows whose team it is.
"It's definitely [Rose's] team," Boozer said. "He's proven that. He's earned that. Worked his butt off. You see how good he is, how great of a season he's had already. [It's] definitely his team."
After spending several months watching Rose every day, Boozer has a new appreciation for just how good the 22-year-old All Star is.
"He's amazing," Boozer said. "I'm really impressed. I knew he was good, and I played against him a couple times. We played against for like a week or two on the 2008 USA team. He was on the select team, the team that we practiced against for a week or two in Vegas. And I was really impressed with how he was playing against [Jason] Kidd, [Deron Williams] and Chris Paul. I knew he was really good, but then you see him every day in practice, you see him in games. The kid has a heart of a champion. He makes play after play after play."
Boozer to make Bulls debut on Wednesday
Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer will make his season debut against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night.
"I'm playing," Boozer said after pregame warm-ups.
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Boozer broke his right pinkie on Oct. 2, and his first full day of contact at practice was Monday.
After the Bulls missed on free agents LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh this summer, they turned to Boozer, who signed a five-year deal that could be worth as much as $80 million.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau wanted to make sure the team's biggest acquisition wasn't rushed on the court too quickly, but he was anxious to put the former All-Star in the starting lineup.
The Bulls are coming off their first successful "Circus Trip" since the Michael Jordan era by going 4-3. Wednesday will be their first home game since the trip ended.
Bulls point guard Derrick Rose is excited to have Boozer in the lineup.
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