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NBA Chicago Bulls

The Curious Case of Carlos Boozer

Gary A. Vasquez – USA TODAY Sports

The time has finally come for a formal address on my relationship with Carlos Boozer.

It all started in the summer of 2010. NBA fans were all locked in. Everything was, of course, dictated by the burning question of where would LeBron James land. But let’s not forget there were many top-shelf players set to decide their destiny that same time period. Dwyane Wade, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh were all testing the free agency waters. Among them was Boozer.

The domino effect obviously played out the way it did once LeBron made The Decision. Dwayne and Chris danced in Miami. Amar’e headed east to the New York Knicks. And my Chicago Bulls landed Boozer. Some fans applauded the move. Others chuckled.

I was one of those that first had Boozer’s back when he first signed with the Bulls. Then came that mysterious hand injury. He tripped, so they said. Yeah, okay. Anyway, we got over it as fans, but it always seemed to be something amiss. Player-fan relations are worse than most marriages. The honeymoon with Boozer was over before it ever started really. I won’t go so far as to say buyer’s remorse. Let’s just say we had high expectations and felt dissed. Somewhere along the way, we felt betrayed. Was Boozer the same guy we danced with on our first date? Is this what a high-priced contract produces? These are all questions that came and then some.

Carlos Boozer will make $15,000,000 in 2013. That’s straight cash homies. My issues with him often aren’t about box scores. He now boasts 10 double-doubles in his last 13 games, averaging 16.2 points, 11 boards, and 1.5 assists in 31.3 minutes over that stretch. That is true hustle worth noting.

The hate has been thick towards Boozer. Consider it fan resentment finally unleashed. The lack of Derrick Rose certainly makes us question everything at this point. Maybe the criticism towards Boozer was more rooted in past disappointment that we refuse to release? Maybe we expected too much? Maybe we wanted what we thought we saw with the Utah Jazz? Maybe we became so resigned to Boozer’s perceived shortcomings that we channeled our hopes into Taj Gibson getting busy during crunch time, relegating Boozer was the high-priced cheerleader on the sidelines? Who really knows?

Animosity on the fan side has been built over the past two-plus seasons animosity has built. The sanctity of the player-fan relationship has been tested with Boozer. It’s hard work but I try to stand by him. I fail at times. And then there was that quote, that’s what did it. Postgame after the Bulls were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last season by the Philadelphia 76ers, he says:  “I thought I played well, especially with the kind of season it was. We had the best record again in basketball, won our division again, had the top seed again, that’s all that matters, yo.” Dude…who says that after their team just got eliminated in the first round? This guy.

The bottom line is I want to cheer for players on my team that I can trust. It’s not about numbers. The guy is 6’9″ and has been playing 10 years. He can play basketball. What it comes down to with Boozer is that there are times where I question his heart, his loyalty, his ability to ride. Diehard fans don’t like to question players on their squad. I am not saying that he can’t produce; clearly, he can. It’s a matter of will he do it, consistently, particularly in the playoffs, when it actually matters? There is never any doubt in the minds of fans that players like, say Joakim Noah, will bring their all every single game. And as a fan, win or lose, that’s all we ever want. But we don’t always feel that way about Boozer. The bottom line is Bulls fans want 15 milli worth of production every night. Is that asking too much?

So that is why. Even when we applaud Boozer’s contributions, we scream for more from him. It’s not about hate. It’s more about hurt. Show us something. Make us believe. At the least, continue having a season that just shuts us all up. Make us regret all the amnesty talk in the first place. Use our criticism as tough love, motivation if you will. Whatever you do, please just ball. That is all we ever wanted in the first place.

–Hate it or love it? Let me know @ReReBreakers.