Carlos Boozer looks thinner, especially his face, which may turn out to be the first positive sign that the forward is ready to become the player the Bulls hoped he would be when he was acquired before last season.
"First I was resting the toe," Boozer said when asked how he spent his lockout-lengthened offseason. "Getting the toe healthy was a big deal. During that time I was just spending time with the family. After my toe felt much better I started cranking up my workouts, my basketball. I was watching tape, trying to improve on the things I didn't do so well last year that I need to get better at."
When asked what he saw on tape and what he wants to improve on, Boozer refused to go into too much detail.
"I was able to look at some of the things I didn't do well and go in the gym and work on it and get ready for next year," he said. "I'll leave it broad like that. This year, I just want to play better D, be more efficient offensively, be a better leader, a better teammate and do whatever it takes for our team to win. Our motto is, 'whatever it takes.'"
No Bulls player was criticized more last season than Boozer. It started with him claiming he broke his hand while tripping over a gym bag while trying to answer the door at his home. That cost him the first 15 games of the season. He later missed eight games with a sprained left ankle. In the playoffs, it was turf toe that limited his effectiveness and prevented him from elevating like he normally does. The result was a dramatic dropoff in production. He averaged 12.6 points last postseason with a .433 shooting percentage compared to career playoff averages of 20.3 and .503.
His defense --- or lack thereof --- was a source of more criticism.
"At the end of the day, some people take criticism the wrong way," he said. "I take it as motivation. Criticism motivates you. That's how I've been my entire career. I'm very motivated to say the least."