With the TV cameras turned off and the dais disassembled, Tom Thibodeau stood on the Berto Center court on July 9, 2010 and exhaled.
“I certainly don’t look at Carlos as a consolation prize,” the Bulls’ coach said in a quiet moment.
Carlos, of course, is Carlos Boozer, on whom the Bulls used the NBA amnesty provision Tuesday. That excises Boozer’s expiring $16.8 million salary from the Bulls’ salary cap and luxury tax figures, creating space to sign Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic. Kirk Hinrich will be signed via an exception, and the Bulls will add a guard either via trade or veteran’s minimum exception.
Teams currently with cap space now can make a blind bid by Thursday to sign Boozer. The highest bid will claim him, set his salary for the 2014-15 season and the Bulls will pay the difference between that figure and $16.8 million. If no teams bid, Boozer becomes a free agent available to any team but the Bulls.
Given that his official introduction in Chicago came on a sweltering 2010 day less than 16 hours after LeBron James took his talents to the Heat on a nationally-televised special, the power forward fought an uphill public relations battle from the start.
It didn't help that Boozer missed all but one day of his first training camp and the first 15 games of the season with a fractured fifth metacarpal in his right hand. Boozer told team officials he tripped over a gym bag answering the door at his darkened condominium, creating some early punch lines.
But here’s another funny thing: The outside perception of Boozer contrasted with how those inside the organization viewed him.
“I’m behind Carlos 110 percent,” Taj Gibson told the Tribune during this season’s playoffs. “He’s as supportive a teammate as I’ve had.”
The Bulls went 205-107 for a .657 winning percentage in Boozer’s four seasons as a starter. He started more games than any Bull in that span, ranked second to Derrick Rose — who missed two seasons — in scoring and second to Joakim Noah in rebounding.
Sure, Noah got frustrated occasionally with Boozer’s lack of defensive rotations. And Thibodeau lost faith in him this final season in Chicago, playing him exactly 24 minutes — the first and third quarters — for the majority of the stretch run.
But Boozer missed only nine games over his final three seasons, playing every game for the first time in his career during the lockout season. After averaging 19.3 points and 10.5 rebounds in six seasons with the Jazz, Boozer posted 15.5 points and nine rebounds while playing almost four fewer minutes per game with the Bulls.
His per-36 minutes averages — 20.4 points and 11.1 rebounds for the Jazz vs. 18.4 points and 10.7 rebounds with the Bulls — were comparable, although his shooting percentage dipped. His 49.1 percent still tied Noah for the team lead from 2010-14.
“We appreciate all that Carlos brought to the organization and the team,” general manager Gar Forman said. “He was a true professional. He was productive on the court and a big part of some of the success we had. He was an excellent teammate. He also was terrific in the community. Unfortunately, under the rules of the new CBA it was necessary for us to use this provision at this time to continue to build our team. We want to thank Carlos for all he brought to the table.”
The Bobcats, Hawks, Lakers and Suns are expected to bid for Boozer.
Layups: Gasol told the Associated Press in Spain that he picked the Bulls over other contending pursuers like the Spurs and Thunder out of “instinct” after talking with Noah and Rose, among others from the organization. He added he expects Mirotic “to make an immediate impact” and called the Bulls a “championship favorite in the East alongside Cleveland.” … The Bulls improved to 3-0 in summer league with a 107-73 blowout of the Timberwolves. Doug McDermott scored 20 points with six assists. … The Bulls also waived the non-guaranteed deals of Mike James, Ronnie Brewer and Lou Amundsen to cap space.
Wanna Say Thank You To The Bulls Organization!!! Thank You For The Last Four Years!!! pic.twitter.com/7YuxGugeT0— Carlos Boozer (@MisterCBooz) July 15, 2014
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