It took exactly one word and a few seconds to establish how Carlos Boozer views his role with the Lakers amid a flooded backcourt. He said he “absolutely” sees himself as a starter after the Lakers acquired him shortly after the Chicago Bulls waived him through the amnesty provision. Boozer, 32, also described himself as a “spring chicken” entering his 13th NBA season.
“My body feels great,” Boozer said Friday at the his introductory press conference at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “I’m looking forward toward getting back out there. I don’t know how long I’m going to play, maybe four, five, six more years, maybe seven. Well see and go from there.”
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak echoed similar optimism, envisioning the two-time NBA All-Star could play productively anywhere between three to five more seasons. Kupchak also sounded surprised the Lakers’ bid worth $3.25 bid became enough to secure Boozer’s rights, though it came at the expense of waiving backup guard Kendall Marshall.
Despite the offseason optimism, plenty of questions loom regarding Boozer’s arrival here.
Boozer said he remains “very confident” he can mirror his career averages of 16.3 points on 52.3 percent shooting and 9.8 rebounds per game. Although he credited Chicago for keeping him in the loop on its offseason plans, Boozer admitted experiencing frustration last season with the Bulls after playing limited minutes in the fourth quarter because of defensive concerns.
“I was humbled a lot and I grew a lot as a man and individual. I take all of that with me in my new experience,” Boozer said. “Every moment and every chance to play is a great opportunity. It’s a blessing. I already felt that way. But it magnified more to me last year. With that outlook on it, I can;t wait to get to work.”
Boozer also offered heavy praise for some of the other Lakers’ forwards, including rookie Julius Randle and five-year veteran Ed Davis. He gushed about the Lakers’ “versatility” that also features Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre and Ryan Kelly. Even if the 6-9, 266-pound Boozer professes he can play both at power forward and center, how can he establish his niche amid a loaded and perhaps fluctuating frontcourt?
“I think we have to find that,” said Boozer, mindful the Lakers have not hired a coach yet. “That’s something for us to determine. We have to get on the court, find out who we are and part of that is competing every day against each other when we have a coach in place and find out what they system is and what direction he wants to lead us in. We’ll find out identity.”
Mindful of that lack of clarity, Boozer still envisioned himself providing a heavy dose of veteran experience toward a crop of promising albeit young forwards.
“The experience, sometimes you have to be out there,” Boozer said. “If you’ve played for a long time, this is my 13th season, I have little tidbits about different players I’m competing against. I can help them with that. It’ll be a fun process.”
That is partly because Boozer will reconnect with Kobe Bryant, whom both played together on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team that won a gold medal over Spain in Beijing. Boozer and Bryant, both of whom share the same agent in Rob Pelinka, have frequently talked and exchanged text messages in the past week.
“He said he’s doing great and feeling healthy and he’s motivated,” Boozer said of Bryant. He said to just come ready to lead and come ready to surprise some people.”
Despite the Lakers finishing last season with the worst record in L.A. franchise history, Boozer echoed Bryant’s optimism. He remained mindful how Bryant’s competitiveness during the 2008 U.S. Olympic run became “contagious,” predicting that will rub off on his younger teammates. It also appeared to rub off on Boozer, who spent time at the Lakers’ facility admiring the championship trophies in the office of president Jeanie Buss that oversees the team’s practice court.
“I’m excited about those championship balls up there,” Boozer said. “That’s what we play for. That’s why I’m here, to help us get back at that level. I’m searching for my first one so that’s great motivation for me.”
And in Boozer’s mind, that would coincide with a starting role.
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