Carlos Boozer said Wednesday he expects to play against Brooklyn, the Bulls' last game before the all-star break. He's missed the past three contests with a left calf strain.
"I think I will (play)," Boozer said before the "Evening with the Bulls" fundraiser at the United Center. "The break will be good for it. (But) if I'm healthy, I want to play."
A better question is will he be the starter when he's healthy again. Taj Gibson averaged 22.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4 assists during the past three games, while the Bulls had two of their highest-scoring first quarters of the season in the past two outings against Atlanta and L.A. Lakers.
Asked if Boozer is still the starter, coach Tom Thibodeau gave a straight answer, with a qualifier.
"Yeah. Again I have to know what the minutes restrictions are," Thibodeau said. "Carlos is an important part of our team. For us to achieve what we want to achieve, we need Carlos. We need him to play well and we're hopeful he'll be back soon."
It's easy to argue that the Bulls are better with Gibson in the starting lineup. At the same time, he's valuable coming off the bench because he can check in for Boozer or Joakim Noah.
"To me, that's the great value of Taj, too. Taj can start, he can come off the bench. He does both equally well," Thibodeau said. "That's a huge plus for us. Carlos has been very good for us. We know how important he is to our team."
Bulls general manager Gar Forman also put in a plug for Boozer when he stopped to speak to the media on an indoor red carpet set up for the event. Forman wouldn't say whether the Bulls plan to use the amnesty clause on Boozer this summer, but with Boozer set to make $16.3 million next season and the Bulls in need of cap space to bring Nikola Mirotic from Spain, it's easy to figure out the likely outcome.
"Those are decisions that are made down the road," Forman said. "I think Carlos has had a good year also. It's an advantage to have two guys at that position who can give you that kind of production."
Bulls have eyes on Spanish star:
One of John Paxson's best early moves after being named Bulls general manager was signing Spanish league star Andres Nocioni in 2004. On Wednesday, he talked about the team's next Spanish league target, 6-10 sharpshooter Nikola Mirotic.
"Our intentions, as we talked about, is to try to get him sooner rather than later," Paxson said. "There's still a process that we have to go through. He still has a significant buyout with Real Madrid. But there's a reason we went to such lengths to try to draft him a few years ago."
Paxson, general manager Gar Forman and European scout Ivica Dukan traveled to Spain to meet with Mirotic in December.
Trade talk quiet:
The Bulls aren't expected to do much before next Thursday's NBA trade deadline and general manager Gar Forman confirmed there isn't much going on right now besides checking in with the other 29 teams.
"We do think we're well-positioned going into the summer," Forman said. "We've got a possibility of a couple first round picks. We've got the possibility of flexibility. Like I've said all along, the core guys that we have we like, so we think we're well-situated going into the summer and into the future."