Through Carlos Boozer‘s bizarre NBA journey — beginning in Cleveland, transferring to Utah and then Chicago — he’s pretty much seen it all.
Playing with the most freakish athlete this league has seen? Been there, done that with LeBron James for two years. Forming a team that widely underachieved through the years in Utah? Check.
Playing next to another All-Star in Deron Williams, while also making his only two appearances in Utah? Check.
Exploring free agency and being everyone’s “fourth option” after LeBron, Wade, and Bosh in 2010? That was fun, and hilarious when he pitched extremely hard for LeBron to join “the best starting lineup in the world.” His terms, not mine.
From then, it was molding his balanced game into one that was predicated on defense with Tom Thibodeau and Joakim Noah. That wasn’t too much of a problem, but again … he seemed to underachieve in Chicago. At least, that’s what majority of the crazed Bulls’ fans will tell you when they found themselves unable to hit water if they fell out of a boat. Boozer’s 13.7 points per game on 45.6 shooting last season wasn’t a complete nightmare, but 2007-08 Carlos isn’t walking through that door in the playoffs.
Contrary to popular belief, defense doesn’t always win championships. Not in this league. Peyton Manning would thrive, if he knew how to play basketball.
Boozer’s scoring average in the playoffs last season hit a career low (9.6). In the playoffs, suffocating teams with your aggression and locking down the middle is great and all, but what propels you to a championship contender is creating easy looks for yourselves, and actually having a go-to option. Chicago hasn’t had that in two years, and Boozer was far from a consideration in that regard.
Amnestied by the Bulls to create cap room for Pau Gasol, Boozer didn’t live on the waivers market for long. He’s now a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, and there’s mixed emotions about it.
First, are you really going to tell me Mitch Kupchak is happy with the fact that he essentially swapped Gasol (19.34 PER) for another power forward in his 30′s in Boozer (14.48 PER)? Not buying it. But, that’s what happens when Gasol’s name is thrown around in countless trade rumors, he’s mistreated by a certain coach we shouldn’t even name, and he feels disrespected by a contract offer.
The two-year, $20 million deal Gasol was offered wasn’t atrocious by any means, considering he would be 36 years old when it expired and his decline has been in full effect since being manhandled by the Mavericks in 2011. But, Gasol feels as if he’s more valuable to a team that literally had nothing a week ago. The Lakers were as empty as Evan Turner‘s Ferrari on the side of an interstate, with just Bryant, Sacre, Nash, and Marshall on hand. If they were going to compete for a 12-15 spot in the Western Conference, why shouldn’t Gasol seek more money from them? It only made sense.
With Chicago, Gasol is with an organization that’s clear favorites to reach a conference finals with Derrick Rose being somewhat stable. That’s the biggest “if” in sports.
Boozer is now joining the loaded frontcourt of Julius Randle, Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre, Ed Davis, and potentially Ryan Kelly. The Lakers won the bidding war on Boozer as he was claimed off waivers on Thursday. One thing to be proud of is not having Mike D’Antoni on board with this depth, as he would force kids to cry. He doesn’t want to use any type of big that can’t shoot from at least 20 feet, and that would be a recipe for death.
Byron Scott just recently went through his third meeting with the Lakers on Wednesday, meaning if he’s not hired by the end of next week, Kupchak has successfully fooled everyone and wasted the veteran coach’s time. With two Finals berths (no title) and being clearly favored by the team’s best player, Scott has to be the guy.
There’s no possible way around it, and no better option for a rebuilding team. The only one willing to go through the hellacious trip of lots of downs and minimal ups …. is Scott. Mark Jackson likely has better offensive strategies with a young core, as he tinkered with in Golden State, but he’s not up for the criticism. Not after that debacle in which he was derogated.
Boozer doesn’t mind trying to stretch the floor for his team around the free throw line, and that’s something that they’ll also miss with Gasol. While Gasol wasn’t a Kevin Love type of dynamic, the pick-and-pop game will forever be Kobe’s favorite with Gasol, unlike any other big he’s had the privilege to play next to. But, that’s not something they’re going to want Boozer to do.
Last season, Boozer attempted the most shots from 15-19 feet on the entire Bulls’ roster (317). He was 41 percent efficient, which is right around where you hope your power forward is in mid-range. He’s a mildly decent option that mirrors the same success, but anyone would still take Gasol’s finesse inside the paint and his ability to pass out of heavy coverage. This team needs a defensive stance, and players that are comfortable taking contact inside. Hill, Randle, and Boozer are all more aggressive and willing to take hits than Gasol.
Luckily, Ed Davis finally has a chance to rise from the cobwebs of a backup big again. In Toronto, the 20+ minutes per game didn’t come without success. Anyone with Davis’ efficiency on just $1 million per year is worth an applause. But then again, you question exactly what the Lakers are trying to accomplish. The backcourt isn’t a mess, but Swaggy P isn’t the perfect complement to Kobe going on year 19 of his career.
Keep in mind, Boozer can’t be used as trade bait for Los Angeles neither. Part of the amnesty provision Chicago used meant that it’s illegal to trade the asset. His deal is for one year, so this can simply be a “borrow” for the Lakers, as is Jeremy Lin. Neither of the two are seen as future talents for a team that takes heavy pride in trying to get star talent, and the cap space available for next season — and 2016 *wink wink* — is still on the Lakers’ minds.
We’ve reached a weird time in society.
The time where the Lakers can throw all their cards on the table to get the largest names, and strikeout. Then, they’re left settling for guys that didn’t pan out with their respective squads, or veterans that want a chance to run up the score.
Los Angeles will be fun this upcoming season. Needless to say, that “fun” is just going to be watching this train run directly off the tracks.