Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak presents the team's newest member, Carlos Boozer, with his new jersey. (Instagram)
For two days, the Los Angeles Lakers had up the press conference lights as they introduced the newest members of the team. Former Houston Rocket Jeremy Lin was introduced on Thursday, while former Chicago Bull Carlos Boozer made his introduction to the media on Friday. Both seemed excited for the opportunity to play in Los Angeles and anxious for the season to start.
“To be a Laker is an honor,” said Boozer during his introductory press conference at the Lakers practice facility in El Segundo. “I’m extremely excited to be here and be a Laker.”
Los Angeles picked up the free-agent forward on amnesty waivers. Nine teams were in the hunt for Boozer and put in a blind bid for the Bull in order to pick up the remaining portion of Boozer’s $16.8 million deal with Chicago. ESPN’s Mac Stein reported that the Lakers won with a bid of $3.25 million.
“Fortunately for us and unexpectedly for us our bid was the highest bid,” said Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak. “Not for a second did we think that he’d be available to us.”
Boozer said he found out that the Lakers won the bid while he was at the gym.
“I was ecstatic. I was jumping up and down, and went back out there and got two more hours in.”
Although Boozer is 32 he says he can see himself playing for multiple years. Last season Boozer averaged 13.7 points and 8.3 rebounds with Chicago. Despite being limited in minutes, Boozer said it was a humbling experience and feels he can offer more to the Lakers. He also said that he can seem himself “absolutely” starting next season.
“I have a lot to prove,” said Boozer. “I’ve admired the Lakers organization for a long time.”
Boozer is going into his 13th year in the NBA and still chasing a championship. He joins a squad led by Kobe Bryant who has notched five NBA rings. Boozer said he spoke with Bryant and complimented his drive to win.
“[Bryant said], ‘Come ready. Come ready to lead. Come ready to surprise some people,'” said Boozer. “[Bryant’s] hunger [to win] is contagious, and I’m looking forward to be a part of that.”
At the time of the press conference no news had come in regarding the Lakers head coaching position. Still without a head coach, Boozer was confident in the team’s future.
“This is a top organization in the league, and they’re going to give us a good coach,” he said.
The pieces seem to be coming together for the Lakers. So far this offseason they’ve signed Lin, Julius Randle, Ed Davis, Boozer, Nick Young and Jordan Hill. But will these pieces create an identity?
“I think that’s something for us to determine … find out who we are,” said Boozer.
The Lakers might have a better idea of what identity they will take on once a head coach is put in place. Shortly after the press conference, news broke that Byron Scott was offered the Lakers head coaching position.
According to ESPNLA’s Arash Markazi, the Lakers made Scott a verbal offer on Thursday after he spoke with Lakers owner Jim Buss. Weeks earlier, Bryant spoke with reporters, before opening up the Kobe Bryant Academy in Santa Barbara, and endorsed Scott.
“He was my rookie mentor when I first came into the league,” said Bryant. “So I had to do things like get his doughnuts and run errands for him and things like that. We’ve had a tremendously close relationship throughout the years. So, obviously I know him extremely well. He knows me extremely well. I’ve always been a fan of his.”
The hiring has not yet been made official by the Lakers as both sides are currently in negotiations. With early reports circulating, many seem happy with the decision.
“I like the Lakers bringing back a member of the family. Byron Scott and Kobe can try and re-establish a culture of winning,” said ESPN analyst Michael Smith.
A culture that was lost last season, but could be brought back to life.