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Roy Hibbert leads new Lakers trio looking for fresh start

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers had hoped to be introducing a top-flight free agent (or two) this offseason, a big-name acquisition who could help revive the franchise that's in the midst of a full-on rebuild. But their top targets went elsewhere, leaving them with limited options.

They ended up signing forward Brandon Bass and guard Lou Williams while also acquiring former All-Star center Roy Hibbert in a trade with the Indiana Pacers.

Sure, none of the three players are expected to contend for MVP status anytime soon, but they still represent quality additions to a roster that, as Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has said, needs plenty of help at every position after finishing a franchise-worst 21-61 last season.

The Lakers introduced those three players at a Wednesday news conference held at the team's practice facility here, and each of the players delivered a similar message, one that holds true for each of them just as much as it does for the Lakers themselves: They're all looking for a "fresh start."

Perhaps no player embodies that idea more than Hibbert, who two years ago was runner-up for NBA Defensive Player of the Year honors before everything turned sour in Indiana.

Hibbert's production and involvement in the offense slumped as the Pacers looked to play faster. There were sharp public comments from management, and, in the end, Hibbert was dealt away for just a second-round pick.

"They wanted to go in a different direction and I understand that," said the 7-foot-2 Hibbert, who spent his first seven seasons with the Pacers after being drafted by them in 2008.

"It’s a business. I’m really happy that I was able to land with a team that has such a rich tradition of big guys and have a winning tradition as well. I always say, embrace change."

Williams, the 2014-15 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, is also looking forward to a new beginning after parting ways with the Toronto Raptors, who didn't even offer him a new contract after his expired deal after last season. Asked why that happened, Williams said, "No idea. That's in the past."

Williams signed a three-year deal worth $21 million with the Lakers, a team he said kept coming up during early talks with his agent.

"Once it came down to it, I felt like I needed a new start," Williams said. "I’ve been in the [Eastern Conference] the first 10 years of my career. To have the opportunity to play in the West was very intriguing to me."

Bass joins the Lakers after playing four seasons with their biggest rival, the Boston Celtics.

"I haven’t thought so much about it," Bass said of the teams' rivalry. "All I’ve thought about is me playing in purple and gold when I was in college [at LSU]. It kinda got me back to my roots. I remember being in college and being a Laker fan. I haven’t thought about the rivalry, but I know I’m going to get a lot of questions."

Bass did say of joining the Lakers that it gave him "a fresh start. I just thought it was a great opportunity to play with one of the greatest to ever play the game [Kobe Bryant]."

Hibbert faced several questions about what went wrong with the Pacers, but he focused more on the future. He also said he was happy to waive $2.2 million of his trade bonus to join the Lakers.

"That was a no-brainer," Hibbert said. "Indiana wanted to go in a different direction, wanted to go younger, and the Lakers wanted me, so I said, who wouldn’t want to be in L.A.? That was a no-brainer. I talked it over with my agent and I didn’t think twice about it."

He also said he's focusing solely on defense, unlike with the Pacers.

"In the past, I was asked to do a little bit of both, but looking at the team here, they have a lot of [offensive] firepower," Hibbert said. "My job is to make sure I clog up the paint, [offer] help-side defense and whatever else I get on the offensive end is candy. My main presence is going to be on defense to make sure these guys know that I have their backs out there."

Kupchak is hopeful Hibbert, whose contract ($15 million) expires after next season, can regain his old form.

"I think it starts with him," Kupchak said. "I think he used the expression of 'fresh start' or 'new start.' I think that’s important."

Kupchak added: "I don’t think he’s going to be the person that averages 26 points and 15 rebounds a game. I do think that he can be a consideration for an All-Star [spot]. But he has to really choose –- and it sounds like he has -– the style of basketball that he wants to play. To me it sounds like he wants to star on the defensive end, which is what we need."

However, Kupchak said it's not as though Hibbert solves all their defensive problems in the middle; opposing teams scored 18.9 field goals per game within 5 feet of the basket against the Lakers last season, the third most in the league.

"If you’re on the perimeter, you can’t just let your guy get past you and say, ‘Oh, Roy is back there,’" Kupchak said. "It doesn’t work that way. Everybody is going to have to buy in defensively and make a commitment defensively. But it’s nice to know that if something breaks down, there is somebody back there who can protect or roam the paint."

Williams is known for providing a scoring punch -- he averaged 15.5 points per game last season -- off the bench. But when asked who would shoot the ball when he and fellow volume shooter Nick Young were on the court together, Williams smiled.

"Whoever has it," he said.

He added: "I’ve played in systems with multiple guards, with having two or three guards on the court at the same time. I’ve played in systems like that. I think the most important thing is not to pin Nick and I against each other. We’re teammates now. We both have similar games. We both like to score the basketball. That’s been one of our strong suits. That’s one of the things we hang our hat on. But once we’re on the court, I like to play team basketball."

Bass played under Lakers coach Byron Scott when both were in New Orleans, and said that experience gave him plenty of motivation.

"My first two years, I didn't play as much," Bass said. "I knew I had to get in the gym and get my grind on."

Bass, who averaged 10.6 points with the Celtics last season, said he hopes to be a two-way presence with the Lakers.