Carlos Boozer bullish on Lakers

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak is still surprised his team was able to acquire Carlos Boozer.

"Fortunately for us and unexpectedly for us, our bid was the highest bid and we were awarded Carlos," Kupchak said Friday during Boozer's introductory news conference. "Not for a second did we think that he'd be available to us."

L.A. landed Boozer with a $3.25 million bid shortly after the 13-year veteran was waived by the Chicago Bulls via the amnesty provision.

Boozer, recalling a recent conversation with Kobe Bryant, said the goal is to keep the surprises coming next season.

" 'Just come ready,' " Boozer said, sharing Bryant's message to him. " 'Come ready to lead. Come ready to surprise some people.' "

Boozer is hoping to replicate the success he and Bryant had together at the 2008 Olympics, taking home the gold for the U.S. in Beijing.

While it will be a tall order for the Lakers, coming off a miserable 27-55 season, to qualify for the postseason, let alone compete for a championship, Boozer is optimistic about the Lakers' chances.

"I think that we can take advantage of it with our lineup that we have," Boozer said. "We have a lot of athleticism, a lot of young guys and we also got Kobe coming back, which I'm excited to be playing with him."

Boozer, 32, described himself as a "spring chicken" and gave a positive review of Bryant, who will turn 36 next month.

"He's doing great," Boozer said of Bryant. "He said he feels healthy and he's motivated."

Kupchak was similarly bullish about Boozer's health.

"Personally, I know he's going to have a great year this year and, at his age, there's no reason why he can't play three, four, five more years and I think that's his expectations as well," Kupchak said.

Boozer actually threw it out there that he could play up to seven more seasons, but who's counting? While coming to L.A. marks the next stage of his career, it also gives him a chance to mentor some of the Lakers' young big men in rookie Julius Randle and free-agent signee Ed Davis. Boozer called them both "studs."

"I think first you got to get in the league and see where you fit and find a niche for yourself," Boozer said. "I watched Randle a lot in college. He had a great, great college run. Great rebounder. Great scorer inside and polished. But sometimes you just have to be thrown in the fire and play. Ed Davis is extremely athletic. I played against him a few times throughout my career. And he's a good rim protector. So I'm excited to be playing with him too.

"But experience, sometimes you have to be out there. When you're playing in the league a long time, this is my 13th season, I have little tidbits about different players that we'll be competing against. I can help them with that. It will be fine. It will be a fun process."

Of course, while he is motivating the young players, he'll also be drawing inspiration from Bryant.

"I see his work ethic," Boozer said. "I see his drive. I see his vision, his focus. And to be able to play with him here is going to be exciting. It's going to be more magnified and I'm excited for it. He's one of the best players to ever put on a jersey and his drive to win is very contagious. I remember with the Olympic team, there were different moments, the Spain game and Argentina game and different games where he just, not only through his play but through some of the things that he said, you could tell how hungry he was. That hunger is contagious and I'm looking forward to be a part of that."

Bryant and the Lakers eliminated Boozer's Utah Jazz teams from the playoffs in three straight postseasons from 2008-10. If you can't beat them, join them, apparently.

"I was frustrated, to be quite frank," Boozer said. "We wanted to beat them. We felt we had a good team in Utah. We fell short, obviously, but it was frustrating because you want to get to the mountain top and you keep getting stopped by the same team. But like I said, I admired them because you got to respect your opponent and I've always respected the Lakers very much. So, it's good to be on this side of it and hopefully we can have success."