Tom Thibodeau defends Carlos Boozer

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- After hearing all the criticism directed toward Carlos Boozer over the past year, Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau came to his power forward's defense on Thursday.

"I felt a big part of that criticism was unjust," Thibodeau said during his first media session since the NBA players and owners came to a handshake agreement last week. "He didn't have a great year but when you look at what he did, he had a very good year, and I expect him to be better this year because hopefully he'll be healthy.

"But if you look at Carlos' career, you're talking about a guy who has performed at a high level and his team has won at a high level, so I'm expecting great things from him this year."

Boozer, who signed a five-year deal worth close to $80 million last summer, averaged almost 18 points and 10 rebounds a game last season. But he missed 23 games last season due to injuries and his defensive inadequacies were a constant source of frustration for fans and even some of his teammates.

Thibodeau believes with a full -- albeit shortened -- training camp, Boozer will improve this season on the defensive end. He missed almost all of last year's training camp after breaking his hand.

"I've said this all along about Carlos, Carlos has been one of the best defensive rebounders in this league for a long time," Thibodeau said. "So when you evaluate our starters, defensively I thought overall it was good. It can be better. We play a collective defense, he's part of it.

"I think the thing that set him back last year was the injury in training camp and then missing the two months. But I also think he had stretches where he played great for us. And after reviewing the films, I'll say this, that he was much better defensively than he was given credit for."

Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.