When he signed this contract, Chicago fans everywhere thought he was going to be the piece that the team needed to get them atop the Eastern Conference as well as into the Finals. As his arrival (amongst other factors) did lead them to the top seed in the East, they ended up losing to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Many people blamed Boozer for the lose, citing his drop in productivity as well as his decrease in numbers across the stat line. The playoffs weren’t the only place that Boozer had shown decline in, though, having dipped in points per game, rebounds per game and blocks per game from the 2009 season in Utah to the 2010 season in Chicago as well as the 2010 season to the 2011 season, both in Chicago.
With all this in mind, the new CBA that allows teams to use the amnesty clause on one player and the contract attached to them has Chicago buzzing about whether or not to use it on Boozer and his hefty price tag. However, this season is the worst season to use it with Derrick Rose sidelined with a torn ACL. Boozer surely has heard the calls for his dismissal and the only way to avoid it is to show fans that he can produce at a high level and get them where they want to be even with their superstar injured.
First, Boozer has to become the face of the Chicago franchise in the absence of Rose. He needs to bump up his stats in every category and be more than just a vocal leader. Boozer needs to lead the team – littered with young and veteran players – by example and he can do that by continuing to show his emotions on the court. More importantly, he needs to make himself better every chance he gets.
Ever since his arrival in Chicago, Boozer’s numbers have gone down until he averaged 15 points per game and 8.5 rebounds a game last season.
He needs to get back into the form he showed in Utah where he averaged 19.5 points per game and 11 rebounds per game. This commitment to self improvement and excellence will effect all the players around him and an attitude like that spread throughout a team will leave them competing in every minute of every game and demanding perfection in every aspect of it.
Boozer is not alone in the category of needed improvement, but he is the one with the target on his head, other players that need to step up to fill the void left by Rose are Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Rip Hamilton. All these players need to demand perfection from themselves as well as from each other to make this season a successful one but no player should feel the pressure more than Boozer.
Second, Boozer- as well as the rest of the team- have to win games. In the off-season Boozer said that fans should not judge him on his numbers but on whether the team wins or not. The truth is, fans are going to judge him on both. Winning games is good and it keeps the players, fans, coaches and front office happy.
But if Boozer is not playing his part then the wins aren’t because of him. As mentioned above, his role needs to be expanded and this new role needs to translate to him carrying the team to victory. If he doesn’t produce it will leave Chicago fans saying, “what exactly do we need him for?”
Lastly, Boozer needs to develop a dynamic duo type chemistry with someone on the court. In Utah, that person was point guard Deron Williams. Here, he hasn’t developed that go-to guy who can count on him to make a play. When Rose returns, Boozer should look to him to form a powerful power forward/point guard combo, a combo that can rely on the pick-and-roll that Boozer favors and the penetrating ability that Rose has.
Until then, Boozer needs to find someone who he can rely on to make big plays and vice-versa, someone who knows his strengths, hot spots and go to plays. The easy suggestion is small forward Luol Deng. Deng has seen two seasons of Boozer playing so he knows enough about him to create a system where they can both prosper in their own styles of play.
These three factors can help Boozer assert himself as the power forward Chicago needs going forward and can also help ease the minds of the upper management who are considering amnestying him. Boozer has one season to prove he is worth the $80 million price tag on him and that he deserves to remain in Chicago.
If he brings the same ferocity and perfectionist attitude into this season as he has in the past with Utah then he should find success and a continued stint in a Chicago uniform.