The Lakers represented a new beginning for Carlos Boozer where he believed he could reestablish his All-Star credentials. But as the Lakers opened the 2014-15 season losing their first four consecutive games for the first time in 57 years, Boozer has become the poster child for the Lakers’ league-worst defense.
“He knows he can play better and I expect him to play better,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said Monday at the Lakers’ practice in El Segundo. “To me, it starts on the defensive end. He has to do a better job against pick and roll defense and has to do a better job on guys who are trying to post him off the dribble.”
Incidentally, Boozer’s defensive miscues marked a primary reason why he sat out for most fourth quarters last season in Chicago in favor of an emerging Taj Gibson. The Bulls then waived the 12-year NBA veteran through the amnesty clause. The Lakers then submitted a $3.2 million bid to acquire Boozer, which will offset the $16.8 million Chicago owes him in his fifth season of his contract.
Boozer has started at power forward averaging 9.8 points on 43.8 percent shooting, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 turnovers in 25.8 minutes. Meanwhile, Ed Davis has averaged 12 points on a team-leading 70 percent shooting, 6.8 rebounds and one block in 23.8 minutes. Yet, Scott said he will only make lineup changes if problems persist after 15-20 regular season games.
Instead, Scott devoted most of Monday’s practice going over defensive concepts, including a specific message to Boozer and Jordan Hill on how to defend pick-and-rolls.
“I told our bigs they have to do better job of being up,” Scott said. “When they’re back, which to me is a soft defense, guards are turning a corner and have a chance to attack our bigs. Bigs have to do a better job of anticipating being up there, being able to show and helping the guards out a little bit. If we do that, then we put ourselves in a better position defensively.”
It sounds like Boozer has understood that message.
“In the West, the guards are great every night,” Boozer said. “The bigs have to be there to help them.”
Scott has praised Boozer’s experienced as a 12-year NBA veteran, two-time All-Star and 2008 Olympic gold medalist. Scott has also gushed about Boozer’s leadership, which partly entailed mentoring rookie Julius Randle before he suffered a season-ending right leg injury in the Lakers’ season opener last week against Houston.
But Boozer’s struggles go beyond defense. He has mostly remained a non-factor and even committed eight turnovers Wednesday against Phoenix.
“I’m trying to get used to playing with different guys and running a different system,” Boozer said. “I’ll get used to it.”