New and former Laker Kent Bazemore had some interesting things to say during his introductory press conference earlier this month.
Bazemore prior appearances with the Lakers in 2014 was his career best, when he was traded from the Warriors midseason and immediately made an impact, where he averaged 13 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and shot about 50% from the field in 23 games. He went from a benchwarmer up in the Bay, and was then thrust into meaningful minutes where he made the most of them.
After that season, then general manager Mitch Kupchak decided to not extend a qualifying offer to Bazemore, thus making him an unrestricted free agent. At the time the Lakers were chasing Carmelo Anthony and wanted to open as much cap space as possible to sign him. Obviously, everyone knows what happened there as Anthony decided to stay at the Garden playing with the Knicks. It is somewhat ironic that Bazemore and Anthony now find themselves on the same team.
Bazemore explains how he used that moment as motivation to improve himself as a player.
“That kind of lit a fire underneath me a little bit back in the day when I used to hold on to those kinds of things before I understood the business side of everything. But I’m just very fortunate to have another opportunity to play in the best league of basketball and one of the greatest organizations in any sport. I played with Carmelo up in Portland.”
Make no mistake, Bazemore is now an NBA veteran, going into his 10th season in the NBA. The average NBA player stays in the league about 4.5 years, so he has come a long way from an undrafted player to where he is now.
“I felt the Lakers were very, very persistent. I heard from Mr. Pelinka and coach Vogel a ton over the first couple hours of the evening once free agency started. They really brought an amazing energy to the table. It really felt like I had a place on that roster to really make a difference and, to me, that stuck out the most.”
Management clearly went all in when recruiting Bazemore, as he already knows what his role will be with the team.
“Defensively is where I hang my hat. Getting that assignment every night, if you watch the playoffs, you see all the younger talent at the guard position, you watch Damian Lillard, Devin Booker, Donovan Mitchell, Steph [Curry], so many guys at the guard position demand a lot of attention from teams. I’m looking forward to coming in and shutting off that water. Waking up every day with that assignment to guard the other team’s best player at the guard position.”
Bazemore can spread the floor and knock down open threes, as he shot a career high 41% from the perimeter with Golden State last season, but he has made a name for himself guarding opposing wings, allowing superstar teammates to exert more of their energy on the offensive end.
It will be interesting to see if he becomes a starter or bench player, and his fit with this current group of quality veterans.