Carlos Boozer Introduction
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak was quite surprised the Lakers were awarded Carlos Boozer via the NBA's amnesty provision, acknowledging as much before Boozer was formally introduced on Friday at the team's practice facility.
"Fortunately for us and unexpectedly for us, our bid was the highest," Kupchak said. "Not for a second did we think he'd be available to us. Personally, I know he's going to have a great year this year, and at his age, there's no reason he can't play three, four or five more years. I think that's his expectation as well."
Because of a new wrinkle in the collective bargaining agreement, the Bulls were able to waive Boozer and not have his salary count towards the cap or luxury tax. Under the new rules, once a player is waived, there is a formal process involving a blind bid by interested teams, with the player being awarded to the team with the highest bid. The Lakers put in a claim for the 6-foot-9 forward, which ultimately turned out to be the highest, and thus they landed the two-time All-Star.
Boozer still averaged nearly a double-double last season – 13.7 points and 8.2 rebounds – despite just playing 28.2 minutes per contest. Coach Tom Thibodeau would typically play the Duke product in the first and third quarters, with sixth man Taj Gibson seeing the bulk of the fourth-quarter minutes.
"Not having a chance to help my team win at the end of games was tough," Boozer said. "As a competitor, you want to be out there doing everything you can to help your team win. Not getting an opportunity was humbling and I learned a lot from that process."
With Boozer in the fold, the Lakers also have rookie Julius Randle, second-year man Ryan Kelly, recent signing Ed Davis, plus Jordan Hill and Robert Sacre in the frontcourt. The 13-year veteran Boozer believes the team has a lot of versatility and talent at the four and the five, and can't wait for the opportunity to start playing with his new teammates.
Despite getting limited playing time in Chicago last season, Boozer believes the first step in trying to prove he is still an effective player starts with his work ethic.
"Just getting in the best shape I can be in," Boozer said. "Coming here and establishing my leadership with the rest of the guys, getting acclimated to the team, with whatever system we're going to be put in and doing it every day. Putting the work in day in and day out to get where we want to be."
Boozer stated he has been in communication with Bryant, who told him he is feeling "great" and "healthy." Despite Bryant playing just six games last season, Boozer still views the five-time NBA champion as a top-tier player.
"I got a chance to play with Kobe in a couple All-Star games and with him in the Olympics in 2008," Boozer said. "I see his work ethic, I see his drive, I see his vision, his focus. To play with him here is going to be exciting. He's one of the best players ever to put on a jersey. His drive to win is very contagious … (his) hunger is contagious and I look forward to being a part of it."
The Duke product still believes he has a lot to offer as well. He's eager and hungry to show he can still be the same player he was in Utah and even in Chicago during the 2010-11 campaign when he nearly posted a double-double average for the fifth straight year (17.5 points, 9.6 rebounds).
"I'm working my butt off and excited for this new challenge ahead of me," Boozer said. "I have a lot to prove."