NEWARK, N.J. -- Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer checked out of his team's 96-94 loss to the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday night with 2:21 left in the third quarter. He never returned. After the game, the frustrated veteran tried to explain why.
"You got to talk to Thibs about that," Boozer said. "That was a coaching decision."
Boozer, who signed a five-year deal worth close to $80 million in the offseason, finished the game with 12 points and nine rebounds, well below his 20 points per game average. Coach Tom Thibodeau hinted that Boozer's absence in the final quarter had a lot to do with matchups.
"The big thing was we were behind big and they were zoning," Thibodeau said. "And so the group that went in, playing Luol [Deng] at the 4, gave us another perimeter player. So it was more effective for us against the zone. So that's why we did it. And when that group cut the lead down and now we were in position, they tied the game up so we just were going to finish with the group that was going well."
Despite Thibodeau's explanation, even his own players wondered why the first-year coach decided to bench one of the team's biggest offensive weapons down the stretch.
"Yeah, we were surprised," Bulls point guard Derrick Rose said. "But we're not going to try to coach. We're going to try to go out there and do our jobs and that's to play. We're just going to leave all the subbing and everything up to [Thibodeau]."
The Bulls take on the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night.
Reserve forward Brian Scalabrine said Thursday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000 that the incident won't become a distraction.
"That will be fine," Scalabrine said. "They're two guys that are professionals, and they both have something incredibly in common: They both want to win. ...
"We'll move past that. ... We're moving on to Philly."
Scalabrine said Boozer's competitive spirit is an important part of his makeup.
"All guys at that level -- he's an elite player in the league, they're competitive and they want to be out there and they want to help the team win," he said. "I think if he wasn't upset -- from the standpoint of he wants to be out there to help us win, then there's something wrong with him. That's the way we want guys to be. We want guys to be competitive, and we want guys to go out there and feel that way.
"Thibs is going to do what he feels like is necessary for us to win the game, and I think Carlos will respect that, and I think we'll move on and go to Philly and try to get that win."
Scalabrine also said Omer Asik's play in helping the Bulls rally from a double-digit deficit figured into Thibodeau's thinking.
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.