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Through ups and downs, Bulls’ Boozer keeps an even keel

(MCT) — LOS ANGELES — Carlos Boozer entered the NBA flush from team and individual success, a national championship and All-America honors at Duke in his rearview mirror.

Then he was drafted by the Cavaliers, who won 17 games in 2002-03 and 35 the next season with rookie LeBron James.

So this recent offensive funk Boozer found himself in before a breakout game Wednesday was about as bothersome as the lint the big man brushed off his suit lapel as he answered whether criticism gets to him.

“I got thick skin, bro,” Boozer said.

Boozer has two postgame personalities, both positive. Regardless of personal performance, he is upbeat and complimentary after victories and accommodating and philosophical after losses.

It wasn’t always this way.

“When I first came out of college, the losing really messed with me,” Boozer said. “I wasn’t used to it. High school, two championships. College championship. I went to Cleveland and we played hard, but we just weren’t very good. So I was real emotional, highs and lows.

“But I had a great coach in John Lucas who taught me: ‘This is the NBA. You’re not going to win every game. You’re playing against elite competition.’ He did a great job of helping me calm down.”

Boozer’s 28-point, 14-rebound performance Wednesday in the Bulls’ overtime victory against the Suns followed a five-game stretch in which he averaged just 8.4 points. Saturday against the Timberwolves, Boozer failed to record a field goal for the first time since he teamed with James in Cleveland in November 2003.

“The last week and a half, I missed some shots,” Boozer said. “The rims have been unkind. But you have to stay positive. I don’t let those times bother me. I know I’m going to have a breakout game eventually.”

Boozer did average 7.8 rebounds in that span despite never playing more than 30 minutes, 26 seconds. So he didn’t let his offensive struggles affect his overall game.

Perhaps this is why coach Tom Thibodeau kept supporting Boozer. Asked late Wednesday where this confidence came from, Thibodeau said, “His career.”

In his first 10 seasons, Boozer averaged 17 points on 53.7 percent shooting and 9.9 rebounds.

“It’s not like you don’t know,” Thibodeau said. “In the end, you basically know where he’s going to end up.”

The Bulls rode Boozer early as he scored their first eight points. He also had two points and four rebounds in overtime.

“This is the thing that he probably doesn’t get enough credit for: When the play is called for him, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s his shot. It’s his play,” Thibodeau said. “And his responsibility is to make the right play. If a second defender comes, he has to hit the open man, which he always does. He plays the right way.

“And he doesn’t press. If things aren’t going his way, the next day he comes in, works on his game and gets ready for the next game.”

Those are lessons Boozer learned from Lucas and honed over the years.

“This is my personality,” Boozer said. “When you have a great game, you have to stay even-keeled. When you have bad games, you have to stay calm. The challenge is always there to try to improve.”

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