Before a recent home game, Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson approached Carlos Boozer and talked to him ex-player to player, not executive to employee.
"He was like, 'Booz, I want to tell you: You come every day and bring your hard hat. You work your butt off in practice. You work your butt off in games. I know you already know this, but sometimes it's good for people to tell you that we appreciate what you do here,' " Boozer said late Saturday, standing in a quiet Verizon Center hallway.
"That made me feel great. It made me feel appreciated. Pax was a player. That's the great thing about having him in our front office. He's been through the long seasons, the training camps, the playoffs, the championship runs. He knows what it takes to get through this."
Don't look now, but Boozer is on the longest consecutive games streak of his 11-year career. Since missing eight games to a sprained ankle in January and March 2011, Boozer has started 123 straight times. That includes the final 14 games of the 2010-11 season and playing every game in a season for the first time in his career during the lockout-abbreviated, 66-game slate last season.
Boozer is one of four Bulls to play in all 43 games thus far this season and the only starter to do so.
"My body feels great," Boozer said. "I think (coach Tom Thibodeau) manages my minutes great. I know when I'm going in. I know when I'm going out. I'm taking care of myself with massages. I'm eating right, getting rest. I'm in great shape."
Even with his off game of six points and two rebounds Saturday in Washington, Boozer remains a strong candidate for Eastern Conference player of the month. He's averaging 19.9 points and 10.5 rebounds in just 34.9 minutes in January.
"You can count on Carlos," Thibodeau said. "Every year, at the end of the season, when you look at the numbers of the top power forwards, he's right there in terms of his production."
Boozer only missed eight games in his first two seasons with the Cavaliers but developed a reputation — rightly or wrongly — as injury-prone with the Jazz. He missed 138 of 492 regular-season games, 28 percent, during his six seasons there.
His October 2010 mishap shortly after signing a five-year, $75 million free-agent contract with the Bulls gave more fuel to critics. He tripped over a gym bag in his home, fracturing the fifth metacarpal in his right hand and missing the first 15 games following surgery.
Boozer always has maintained his injury history is more bad luck than anything else. He has never missed one of his team's playoff games, starting all 66.
"I've had weird stuff happen to me," he said. "I broke my foot. I broke my leg. I tore my hamstring three times. I broke my hand. Just freak stuff, nothing chronic."
Boozer feels so good this season his sense of humor is as solid as his offensive game.
"As long as I can take care of myself and watch out for any luggage in my apartment, I think I'll be OK," he said.