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Rose and Thibodeau praise slimmed-down Boozer

By K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — When No. 1 speaks, people listen.

“Booz, you see how he’s looking,” Derrick Rose said of Carlos Boozer. “He lost a lot of weight. He has been running great in practice, going hard.

“We have to play inside more. And our game is also at the top of the key, high pick-and-rolls, but we run away from them sometimes toward the end. The way he has been working out and working on his game, we have confidence in him.”

Rose’s comment almost got lost in the myriad angles and story lines that emanated from Sunday’s Media Day festivities. Its gist got revived again Tuesday when the subject of Boozer’s weight loss and conditioning flared anew because of how strong he has looked in practice.

Translated, Rose basically said: Get the ball to Boozer more.

“We want our offense to be versatile and attack in different ways,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “And not only in set offense, we want to do it in transition. The fact is he’s in better shape, he can outrun people and beat them down the floor. Hopefully, we can run more off our defense and attack teams before they get set.”

Boozer’s much-publicized postseason struggles, exacerbated by his turf toe condition, often obscured the fact he averaged 17.5 points on 51 percent shooting last season. That’s more than his career 17.3 points per game average and just shy of his career 53.7 shooting mark.

“He’s jumping again,” Thibodeau said. “He’s a quick jumper and finishes with both hands. He always has been real clever. He always has had those floaters, little flip shots. He’s a very good 15 to 17-foot jump shooter. He can face you up, pick-and-pop, pick-and-roll. We want to take advantage of those strengths.

“Last year was a broken year in terms of starting, stopping, hurt, healthy, hurt. It’s tough to go through and the adjustment of going through a new team. This guy has played at a high level for a long time in this league. I’m confident he’ll be fine.”

In fact, management is expecting Boozer to make a jump this season.

“If you look at major free agents who have changed teams, historically they’ve shown improvement from Year One to Year Two,” general manager Gar Forman said. “There’s familiarity with the system, the city, the organization. And he changed conferences. I think he’ll be more comfortable. I would expect Carlos to have a very good year.”

Boozer has been playful about all the attention his slimmed down look has received. “I just feel great, lighter, healthier,” is how he phrased it on Tuesday.

As for how it will translate to the court, the former All-Star smiled again.

“You’re going to have to come to the games and watch,” he said.

©2011 the Chicago Tribune

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