Bulls fall 128-96 to Nuggets amid Carlos Boozer trade talk
BY NEIL HAYES email@example.com February 7, 2013 11:25PM
Bulls forward Carlos Boozer is happy with his basket late in the fourth quarter of the Chicago Bulls 95-83 win over the Los Angeles Lakers Monday January 21, 2013. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: March 10, 2013 6:41AM
DENVER — While one NBA source confirmed the Bulls and Toronto Raptors have had initial talks about a trade involving Carlos Boozer and Andrea Bargnani, another said it’s unlikely the deal will be consummated for several reasons.
Ranking among them is the Bulls’ emergence as a team capable of making a playoff run once guard Derrick Rose returns after rehabilitating his surgically repaired knee. With Boozer playing his best basketball since joining the Bulls, management might not want to upset chemistry that has one of the winningest coaches in NBA history, the Denver Nuggets’ George Karl, believing the Bulls can compete with the Miami Heat for Eastern Conference supremacy.
‘‘Interesting,’’ Boozer said when told of the discussions before posting 18 points in a 128-96 loss to the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on Thursday night. The Nuggets’ 128 points was the most scored against the Bulls since Tom Thibodeau took over as coach. The 32-point differential was also the most lopsided final score of Thibodeau’s tenure.
‘‘That’s part of the business this time of year,’’ Boozer added. ‘‘I can’t worry about things that may or may not happen.’’
The Bulls’ trademark defense dissipated in the thin air as the streaking Nuggets ran away from the turnover-prone Bulls in the third quarter to win their eighth straight and 22nd of 25 at home.
Boozer struggled to keep up with energetic Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried, who had 21 points and 12 rebounds.
Despite Thursday’s debacle, the Bulls have exceeded expectations in a season defined by Rose’s rehab.
Karl, who has led 21 teams to the playoffs in 25 NBA seasons, believes the Bulls have a shot at unseating the Heat when Rose returns.
‘‘If Derrick Rose comes back healthy, there’s a chance,’’ Karl said. ‘‘They were playing last year at a very high level before he got hurt. I’m always going to give the champs the benefit of the doubt, but if they can get back healthy, I think they would be the second-most dangerous team to Miami in the East.”
While the proposed trade might give the Bulls more financial flexibility moving forward, they could use the amnesty option on Boozer after the season — something they couldn’t do with Bargnani, who has two years left on a contract reportedly worth $22 million.
Boozer is in the midst of his best season with the Bulls and was averaging 15.7 points and 9.6 rebounds entering Thursday. His 24 double-doubles this season are second-most in the East.
The proposed deal may not make sense for the Raptors, either, since Boozer makes $5 million more than Bargnani and the deal would open the Raptors up to the league’s luxury tax.
Raptors president Bryan Colangelo has said he would exceed the luxury-tax threshold for the right player, but the player he most covets may be Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers, who is expected to miss six to eight weeks with a foot injury.
The Bulls have a long-standing policy of not responding to ‘‘rumors’’ and would not comment.
Bargnani, who’s in the midst of his worst NBA season, has missed 26 games with an elbow injury and is being shopped leading up to the Feb. 21 trade deadline. He averages 15.9 points and 4.3 rebounds and would not be an upgrade defensively for a Bulls team that would be the fourth seed if the playoffs started today.
Daequan Cook scored 19 points off the bench for the Bulls, while Nate Robinson scored 14 and Luol Deng 11.
Former DePaul standout Wilson Chandler made all five of his three-pointers for the Nuggets and finished with 24 points.