At this late stage of a season long since lost, I find myself staring down those endlessly empty Sunday afternoons far more often than in years past. You know the type - those sprawling dog days where a thick air of laziness hangs over the dwindling remainder of the weekend, coaxing out our most sedentary tendencies. There's nothing on TV, and errands that need doing are lethargically waved off with a hand that can barely be bothered to pick up a cell phone and go through the motions of mashing in your passcode to check an email inbox you already know is empty. On days like this, oftentimes the only thing both effortless and absentminded enough to move me to action is cycling through YouTube clips of old basketball games.
I have to be honest with you Carlos, when perusing the hours of hoops immortalized in streaming online videos, I
rarely never choose anything involving you. I'd much rather delve into footage of the singular brilliance of the Sleepy Floyd Game, Bill Russell taking a rebound the length of the court before hurtling a human being for a layup, or the aesthetic bliss achieved by a late-prime Kobe Bryant.
Yet, regardless of how rarely I'd opt to look, there you are. Scattered across YouTube's archives are real, legitimate and totally unironic Carlos Boozer highlight mix tapes. Just halfway down the page of an initial search is a particularly slick montage of you dunking on entire defenses and making the likes of Dirk Nowitzki look silly, all synced to the relentless rhythmic assault of Jay Z's "Roc Boys".
It's easy to forget - with your recent string of DNP-CD after DNP-CD as Byron Scott tries to gauge whether his young talent might have a future with your current team - that you used to be a really good NBA player. After all, it wasn't all that long ago you finished in the top-ten of MVP voting, made two All-Star teams, and even nabbed an All-NBA selection. Mind you, this isn't about me coming to your defense, or making a case for why you should be brought back next year - doing either of those things would be the definition of disingenuous. I merely want to bid you a proper farewell, cast a knowing nod in your direction, and wish you the best of luck.
You see Carlos, yours is a peculiar station in Lakers lore. While you're obviously not going to be remembered for your valuable contributions to a winning team or iconic moments during a championship run, you're also not an abjectly awful player. However, upon hearing that the Lakers signed you this past summer, to be perfectly honest I was disgusted. With LA having just drafted a hopeful franchise cornerstone that played your exact position in Julius Randle, and having another power forward prospect in Ryan Kelly, I saw the Lakers' acquisition of you as doubly foolish. The front office was hindering the playing time of the very players that needed heaps of it while simultaneously completing the final stages of a downturn in aesthetic appeal that started in 2011 with Josh McRoberts' knee-high white socks.
I don't know if it was your eyebrows, yelling, horrid defense or maybe just lasting images of you with spray-on hair that poisoned me against you, but I will admit, I was firmly in the "no thanks" camp when it came to the subject of picking you up off the waiver wire. I regret my prejudice, but even some eight months after your signing, I'm still not sure what to make of you.
Let's start with the obvious: Your quality of play on the floor and how it pertains to the immediate and future fortunes of the Los Angeles Lakers. This is an area where, no matter what you do, you're going to find a way to disappoint me. Last summer, I eventually started to come around to the idea of having you on board. I thought you could mentor Julius Randle in some capacity, placate Kobe to a degree, and be just terrible enough to ensure the Lakers kept their all-important top-five protected draft pick.
Now, Julius going down in the season opener surely wasn't your fault, and you and Kobe seemed to get along just fine. As for your play, it's been a mixed bag, to say the least. Don't get me wrong Carlos, I wouldn't deign to say you've had all that "good" of a season, but I wouldn't classify it as a total train wreck either, and a quick glance at some advanced stats backs that notion up.
To date, you've had a PER of 16.59, which, hey, isn't great, but would still place you 23rd among NBA power forwards and in the vicinity of wholly respectable players like Serge Ibaka, Kenneth Faried, Taj Gibson, Ryan Anderson, David West and Markieff Morris. Additionally, you rank 21st in both Value Added and Expected Wins added, which puts you in similar company while somehow also being in the top-ten among all power forwards for Defensive Rebound Rate. On top of that, it seems that you handled this dismal season and your demotion to the bench with an admirable degree of professionalism and aplomb that a lesser man with your basketball pedigree might have deemed beneath him. By all accounts, you've been an exemplary locker room citizen and good teammate, and for that I believe Lakers fans have real gratitude.
Of course, some of these same stats can be used for the exact opposite purpose of showing that you've been every bit the disappointment many expected. Your 12.1 points per game and 6.9 rebounds are your lowest since your rookie campaign, you rank in the mid-forties in True Shooting Percentage and Offensive Rebound Rate, and a simple smell test can easily identify the noxious mash-up of awful defense, poor free-throw shooting and uncouth push-off fouls on display on a nightly basis. While some of this can be explained away by the circumstances you've been thrust into (bad team, bad coach, etc.), most of the responsibility for your level of play falls on you.
In spite of all the evidence that you've been a below-average player this season, you haven't been quite bad enough to appease the burgeoning pro-tank population of Los Angeles, and you never quite reached the point where, like Crocs, you were so out, you were actually in. This is perhaps my biggest disappointment and the greatest tragedy of your tenure here as a Laker: Your failure to reach the lofty status of Folk Hero. Your time here in LA was too transient, your season too vacuous, deeply ensconced in a losing culture and far too forgettable to place you in the pantheon of former Laker cult figures like Slava Medvedenko, Von Wafer, Vladimir Radmanovic, DJ Mbenga or any other member of the vaunted "Taco Unit" of yore. There are plenty of gifs, photoshopped pictures and videos of you acting unintentionally hilarious, and those memories may live on in the minds of many a diehard follower of the Purple and Gold, but I just can't see people showing up to games with a tagline like "Croozin For a Boozin" silk-screened on a T-shirt.
So what are we going to do with you Carlos? Placing a label on you and finding your corner, however small, in Lakers history seems like such an imprecise endeavor. It's a shame that you'll be forever tethered to the worst season in Lakers history, though, in fairness, you haven't done quite enough to distinguish yourself from it. I know that at this stage of your career it's unrealistic to expect you to be a huge stats guy on a lousy team, or, given your professional demeanor, for you to make headlines by sowing seeds of locker room discord, but what will we remember you by?
Sure, there hasn't been a defining Carlos Boozer moment this season, but there's still plenty for you to be proud of. For starters, you've had a long, successful NBA career, you've made tens of millions of dollars, achieved a degree of fame reserved for a tiny percentage of humanity and competed hard every night for a team that had no long-term investment in you. For that, you should feel genuine pride. I also think you deserve to be in a better situation, one where fans will appreciate whatever positive contributions you might have left, rather than bemoan them as counterproductive while taking every opportunity to point out your shortcomings.
Our memories as fans are selective about who we keep in our hearts, and unfortunately, you didn't veer far enough toward any easily identifiable archetype to really leave an impression. You emanated "good dude" vibes throughout your tenure, but your successful past means you'll never be a salt of the earth type. You had some really good games, but you never achieved the exalted air of the Laker championship glitterati. Worst of all, without a meaningful backdrop to give proper perspective, your many foibles will soon fade from our collective consciousness.
Good night and good luck Carlos, we wish you no ill will. Here's to greener pastures ahead .... and sorry for all the stuff we said about you.