There are many facets to a person no matter what walk of life they chose to undertake. Nobody is ever just one thing, but when you are an NBA player, on-court performance is often the only thing you are measured by. It defines you and perception often becomes an unfair reality dowsed in hyperbole without the true nature of circumstance given its proper weight.
In some extreme cases, lofty statistics don’t seem to hold enough substance, especially if a lucrative contract is affixed to a player. This has been the reality for Carlos Boozer who holds career averages of 16.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists on 52 percent shooting from the floor. He’s been a productive player for 12 seasons and never averaged less than 10 points per game in his career. He’s a two-time All-Star, a gold medalist and one of the best teammates a locker room can possess.
Despite all of those positive attributes, he’s also been one of the more criticized guys in the NBA since coming to Chicago in 2010-11. With the inception of the new collective bargaining agreement came a magic, but expensive, eraser for general managers and owners: the amnesty provision. The word “amnesty” has been looming over Boozer like a cumulonimbus cloud since it was first typed into the most recent CBA as fans and media thought the Bulls would be better off without him and his contract off the books.
Coach Thibodeau would regularly sit Boozer during the closing minutes of games in favor of a seemingly better defensive option in Taj Gibson. That slight seemed to erroneously fuel criticism against Boozer and the shouts for his dismissal. For the record, Boozer’s defensive rating the last four seasons was 99, 95, 100 and 98 while Gibson’s was 98, 96, 101 and 100. It appears Boozer was able to defend almost equal to or better than Gibson in Coach Thibodeau’s system despite the commonly held belief that he was a matador dangerously clad in red.
It’s unclear where the Bulls would have been these last few seasons without Boozer, but it’s more apparent than many Bulls fans wish to see that he helped more than he hindered. He averaged 15.5 points and 9 rebounds in 30.4 minutes during four seasons with the organization. Boozer stayed relatively healthy for his duration in Chicago outside of an unfortunate gym bag incident that began his first season in the Windy City. He was a mentor to Joakim Noah and reassuring voice to Derrick Rose and the rest of the guys in the locker room. Those characteristics, coupled by his actual production, provide reasons enough to keep him in red, white and black.
But after three years of a growing cacophony of amnesty talk, the rain finally came shortly after the Bulls acquired Pau Gasol and Boozer was let go on July 15. The former Duke product had no idea where he would land for his thirteenth season but it was the Los Angeles Lakers who wisely bid and won Boozer’s services for the 2014-15 campaign.
“Going through the amnesty process was kind of a weird process, but the Chicago Bulls were great about it. They talked to my agent and I the entire time. I knew I had two days for teams to bid on me and I really didn’t know which teams were interested. I had no clue” said Boozer on the phone.
Boozer would go on to say he was glad it was the Lakers who claimed him because he’s always admired the purple and gold from afar. He had a brief conversation with Kobe Bryant and is excited to play with Mamba during the final stages of his career.
“Kobe’s one of the best players to ever put a jersey on, and one of the best competitors in the history of sports, and one of the best leaders. I don’t think he gets enough credit for that” he said.
The ever optimistic Boozer expressed that he and the Lakers may surprise people next season, especially those who may doubt them on paper. He’s ready for a leadership role in the locker room alongside Kobe and hopes to help guys like rookie Julius Randle learn the NBA game.
“I’ve been a leader everywhere I’ve been,” a confident Boozer said. “My whole thing is trying to get better, each day every day. I think Randle is a stud and I enjoyed watching him play in college…He has all the tools to be a great NBA player. I’m looking forward to working with him. I’m looking forward to teaching him some of the things I’ve learned along the way. But I’m excited to play with all my teammates. We’ve got some talent on this team. We have some guys with stuff to prove, myself included, and I think we’re going to surprise some people.”
One could take that as standard player interview jargon, but Boozer is a guy who has made a habit of making the best out of any situation. From the criticism in Chicago, back to when he was an even more hated man in the city of Cleveland than LeBron James (before this summer’s homecoming), Boozer has never let the pitfalls associated with his profession create a negative narrative in his psyche or approach.