Horace Grant frustrated with Boozer
And like many other Bulls fans, he has not been pleased with what he has seen from Carlos Boozer.
"It will be a long time before I could be a head coach, because I don't care how much money you get paid," Grant said. "If you're not producing more or if I feel you're hurting the team, especially in the playoffs, I'd bench you.
"If Boozer is having an off-game scoring, he has to do other things. You have to rebound and you've got to play defense."
Boozer was booed by the home crowd during the Bulls' 86-73 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Wednesday night.
Saying he was significantly affected by a turf toe injury, Boozer had eight points on 4-of-12 shooting with 11 rebounds in 32 minutes. He also committed two defensive three-second violations resulting in technicals, and was slow to rotate defensively.
In the postseason, he is averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds in seven games, but after coming back from a late-season ankle injury he has been consistently singled out among fans and the media for a lack of aggressiveness defensively and sharpness offensively.
After Wednesday night's game, Boozer said his toe was "still hurting" and affecting his elevation "a lot."
"Well, then sit down," Grant said. "If you're that bothered by it, sit down, seriously.
"I like Boozer as a person, but if you're hurt like that, it's a liability for the team. I'm pretty sure Taj Gibson would be a very good replacement. This Bulls team is built where if one guy goes down, he has a good backup."
Boozer was signed last summer to a five-year contract worth approximately $80 million, which conventional wisdom says makes it that much harder to justify benching him.
"Where does it say that because you make so much money, you have to play if you're not producing?" Grant said.
Grant offered the example of Toni Kukoc being benched occasionally on the Bulls' championship teams.
"Many times Phil [Jackson] would sit him down, and he was making four million bucks," Grant said.
Grant said it's possible Boozer is putting pressure on himself as well.
"I'm sure Boozer is thinking, 'Man, they're paying me all this money, and this is the playoffs,' but stop worrying about all that money and start worrying if you can contribute to a team winning," he said. "He has to put his ego aside for the betterment of the team."
Melissa Isaacson is a reporter and columnist for ESPNChicago.com.