Jan 15, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Chicago Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer (5) against the Orlando Magic during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kobe’s Message to Carlos Boozer: Come Ready

Carlos Boozer, in crossing one more bridge, took a long and steady pause. He did not break eye contact at the window, he couldn’t if he tried. Above him were pieces of perfection, the shimmering championship trophies from five different decades. Lined in a row, their gold as bright as a brilliant sun, their artistry as significant as their meaning, it was an exclamation point.  Here excellence was achieved

Apr 14, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer (5) during the first quarter at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Poised and self-effacing, Carlos Boozer was quick to express his happiness at the Lakers for winning the bid for his services. He used the word “ecstatic” as he described the Lakers, noting with seriousness the forthcoming challenge.

It was a ceremonial introduction that felt more like an orientation, a re-acclimation of Carlos Boozer who was, once upon a time, a great player. He had devolved into something else the past few years. Hardly did he play late in the fourth quarter, his job was to wave a towel which was humbling. “Playing the first quarter and third quarter, not having a chance to help my team at the end of game was tough.”

So when Boozer admitted he had a lot to prove in this upcoming season it made sense. He is like everyone else who has something to prove too.

Kobe has to prove that healthy he is still Kobe. Nick Young has to prove he has developed his game. Julius Randle has to prove his talent will pay dividends. Jeremy Lin has to prove he can be a starting point guard. Jordan Clarkson has to prove being overlooked was a mistake. Ed Davis has to prove four years and four teams was a fluke.

Informed as to his role as a mentor, Boozer seemed accepting of the younger players he will be surrounded with. He mentioned Ed Davis and Julius Randle specifically as being the direct beneficiaries of his experience, sharing with them his tricks and player info and all the mundane details about playing the position. Boozer did not have a problem with the rotation, playing the 4 or 5, or being the senior member of the power forward group. But he expects to be the starter, to win the job in training camp. “Absolutely”, he said with confidence.

Although it had been reported that Carlos Boozer had hoped to land with the Houston Rockets playing next to Dwight Howard, he said all of the right things on Friday morning. “It’s an honor”, Boozer noted. “I’m extremely excited to be here and to be a Laker. I’ve admired the Lakers organization for a long time.”

But of course the lingering question is what exactly does Carlos Boozer have left? He is only 32 years, he has played 12 years but in recent seasons he has struggled with the evolution of the game as it is has moved towards athleticism and aggression. The power forward is a different position now.

For true competitors the Lakers are a great motivator and Boozer, a two time All-Star, still believes in his ability to get back to the elite level of a few years ago. He has re-dedicated himself this summer and is working incredibly hard to put himself in a position where he can make a substantial impact come opening night.

As expected the questions veered towards Kobe Bryant and Carlos Boozer talked about his relationship with the gifted star. Kobe and Boozer were teammates on the Olympic team in 2008. Boozer fondly remembered Kobe’s competitive will.  “ There were different moments in the Spain game and the Argentina game and different games where he just not only by his play but by some of the things he said you can tell how hungry he was and that hunger is contagious.”

Kobe told him: Come ready to lead, come ready to surprise people. It’s indication that Kobe is ready for the doubters and critics and that he has already morphed into Kobe mode, the one who relishes proving everyone wrong.

It was advice Carlos Boozer took to heart. “I’m 32. I feel like a spring chicken. My body feels great. I’m looking forward to getting out there.”

Mitch Kupchak is a believer too. “Not for a second did we think that he’d be available to us. I know he’s going to have a great year.”






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