Bulls' Boozer closes in on career milestone

Barring some sort of setback over the next 48 hours, Carlos Boozer will achieve a career milestone by playing in every game for the first time in 10 NBA seasons.

He came close a couple of times, playing in 81 games as a rookie with Cleveland, then again in 2007-08 when he was with Utah.

“I'm happy to be healthy, especially in this kind of a season where there's games almost every day or traveling every day,” Boozer said Tuesday at the Berto Center. “I'm proud of myself, knock on wood, and hopefully can keep it going.”

During his first nine years in the league, Boozer missed at least 20 games four times. That included last season with the Bulls, when he skipped 23 contests because of a broken hand and a couple of sprained ankles.

Overall in his career Boozer has played in 79 percent of possible games. There have been some remarkably durable power forwards during that time, such as Dirk Nowitzki (96 percent), Tim Duncan (94) and Kevin Garnett (93).

But Boozer's availability has been similar to guys such as David West (82.5 percent), Pau Gasol (82.3), Elton Brand (82.1) and Amare Stoudemire (79.7).

It's difficult to say Boozer or the Bulls did anything to improve his durability. Last year the broken hand happened away from the court, while one of the ankle sprains was the direct result of a flagrant foul by Kwame Brown.

Those sort of things are out of a team's control.

But Boozer's minutes (29.9 per game) are the lowest since his rookie season. At times this year he has claimed the decreased playing time will keep his legs fresh for the playoffs.

“I think that's Thibs being a great manager,” Boozer said, referring to coach Tom Thibodeau. “We're probably one of the most rested teams in the league.

“That's because, for one, we're very deep and we've got guys that can play, and two, he's done a great job of managing our minutes in every game. You've got to give Thibs a lot of credit for that.”

Thibodeau has used the theme this week of how no Bulls player ranks in the top 25 in the league in overall minutes played, and he's right. Through Monday's games, Luol Deng is the highest-ranking Bull at 26, while Boozer is next at 56.

Boozer is averaging 15.1 points and 8.7 rebounds, down slightly from his career averages of 17.0 and 9.9, but that probably corresponds to the decreased playing time. His field-goal percentage of .528 remains respectable.

Another thing about Boozer that's slightly unusual is he seems to be completely devoid of mood swings. He sticks to the same routine before every game, stretching on the floor of the locker room with music blaring through headphones.

Then whether he scores 26 points or 6, logs heavy minutes or sits the entire fourth quarter in favor of Taj Gibson, Boozer doesn't complain publicly about Thibodeau's decisions. He also never ducks out of the locker room early to avoid the media, a common practice across the NBA.

When the Bulls rallied to defeat Miami on April 12 with a reserve-heavy lineup, Boozer was one of the first players to jump off the bench and celebrate. He doesn't move fast enough to beat John Lucas in that category.

“I'm a team guy,” Boozer said. “We have a bunch of guys that have been all-stars in different places. That doesn't mean anything. We all want a championship.

“You look around (the Berto Center) and there's nothing but championship trophies and success; people that we used to look up to as kids. It's all about winning. That's the way they put the team together, which is great. We just want to win.”

Whether or not Boozer acts differently when the locker-room doors are closed or grumbles under his breath at being removed from games can't be verified.

When he claims to be about winning, though, all he has to do is point to the Bulls' record — 110-36 since Boozer joined the team as a free agent.

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Bulls tipoff

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