Hibbert, Williams, Bass eager for fresh starts with Lakers
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) Right after Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams and Brandon Bass received their new gold jerseys Wednesday, they all spoke variations on the same theme.
The three veteran NBA players entered the summer looking for a fresh start, and they're all eager to get it with the Los Angeles Lakers.
They're also looking forward to playing with Kobe Bryant - after they get a chance to talk to him.
''I appreciate the Lakers getting me out here, and I'm going to work extremely hard to make sure the Lakers get back to where they should be,'' Hibbert said.
The Lakers were thrilled to swing a trade for Hibbert, the 7-foot-2 center who spent the past seven seasons with the Indiana Pacers. The two-time All-Star had already moved to Los Angeles before the deal happened, and he is determined to return to dominant defensive form after a perceived down season precipitated his departure from Indiana.
While the Pacers are trying to get smaller and faster, the Lakers could use a bulky stopper after struggling as one of the NBA's worst defensive teams last year.
''Looking at the team here, they have a lot of firepower,'' Hibbert said. ''My main presence is going to be at the rim. Last year, the Lakers were (29th) in defensive efficiency, so my job is to make sure I clog up the paint, (provide) help-side defense, and whatever else I get on the offensive end is candy.''
Hibbert's perceived decline last season wasn't visible in most statistics. He started 76 games and averaged 10.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots per game - all numbers that look great to the Lakers.
''In this business, if you can have somebody that size that's 28 years old, that clearly wants to rebirth his career, I think that's a good risk,'' Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said.
Hibbert is entering the final year of his contract with free agency looming, but he already feels a connection to the lineage of great Lakers centers. He watched Shaquille O'Neal's rise intently while growing up, and he has worked with Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the past.
''Kareem reaches out to me,'' Hibbert said. ''He comes to watch my workouts, and we stay in touch for the most part. He gives me little tidbits. I worked with him a lot last year. He keeps up with me, so he always gives me some advice, something to work on.''
After striking out with the biggest free agents on the market following the worst season in franchise history, the Lakers restocked their roster with a mix of veteran acquisitions and young talent led by No. 2 overall draft pick D'Angelo Russell.
Williams got a three-year, $21 million contract after the best season of his career with the Toronto Raptors, averaging 15.5 points as the league's Sixth Man of the Year. He believes there will be plenty of shots to go around when he plays with Bryant and Nick Young, saying the player to shoot the ball will be ''whoever has it.''
Toronto didn't make much of an effort to retain Williams, who said he has ''no idea'' why the Raptors let him walk.
''This is an organization with a very rich tradition,'' Williams said. ''Some of the greatest players in the world have come out of the Lakers organization ... so I'm proud to be a part of that family.''
Bass revealed a secret he kept buried during the past four seasons with the Boston Celtics: He was a Lakers fan in college at LSU, partly due to their similar purple-and-gold color schemes.
Bass was a starter for most of his four seasons in Boston, but he is willing to play any role required by Lakers coach Byron Scott, his coach for his first two NBA seasons with the Hornets in New Orleans and Oklahoma City.
None of the Lakers' newcomers has spoken with Bryant yet, a fact revealed by a news conference question that led to an awkward silence. Bryant has been on vacation.
Bryant's last three seasons have ended early due to injuries, including a shoulder injury last season. The third-leading scorer in league history is expected back in the fall for his 20th season, making an NBA-high $25 million.