New Laker Tarik Black ready to work hard, add defensive presence

Tarik Black joins Lakers after being claimed off waivers Sunday

New Lakers forward/center Tarik Black arrived in El Segundo after practice on Monday and introduced himself to General Manager Mitch Kupchak, Coach Byron Scott and his staff, and some of Black's new teammates.

The Lakers claimed Black off waivers Sunday, after he was cut loose by the Houston Rockets, needing a roster spot to sign forward Josh Smith.

"I'm thankful and grateful for the opportunity to play for such an amazing organization," said Black of the Lakers. "Growing up and playing basketball, you look at the team with the most NBA championships, a team with a vast history of great players, from guards to bigs, and a whole array of greatness just surrounds this place. Hopefully I can just come in and be a part of it."

Technically the Boston Celtics have 17 titles to the Lakers' 16, but Lakers fans won't mind the fuzzy math.

"Playing basketball is bigger than money or fame or anything like that. I really love the game," said Black. "Coming in here and seeing the great history and tradition of the great players, rings, conference championships, I want to be a part of it. I want my name to be written on these walls in some way, shape, form or fashion.

Undrafted out of Kansas, by way of Memphis, Black played 25 games with the Rockets, starting 12 games for Dwight Howard, who sat with a knee injury. Black averaged 4.2 points on 54.2% shooting, along with 5.1 rebounds.

The 23-year old said he appreciates the opportunity the Rockets gave him.

"I got a blessing just to put on an NBA jersey. I went undrafted. I was under the radar," said Black. "They presented me the opportunity to actually play in the NBA then on top of that when Dwight went down, I became a starter, and who would have thought a non-drafted free agent rookie would be starting eight games into the season?"

When the Rockets needed roster space, they chose to cut Black because he was more likely to be claimed off waivers than some of their other players. With the Lakers' claim, all of Black's $507,336 salary comes off of Houston's books, dropping the team back below the NBA's $76.8 million luxury tax threshold.

Black said he understood the business aspect of the decision, and that Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey spoke to him multiple times about the move.

"I took it positively. I can't take it hard," he said. "I don't apply pressure to myself. You can apply pressure to yourself in some abstract ways, and that's one of them. Thinking, 'Well I should take it hard because I was just cut. What am I going to do?'

"That's not my style. I just play the game. I play as hard as I can. Somebody will like me if I play as hard as I can. Somebody will pick me up. Somebody will give me an opportunity and if they don't, then I just probably wasn't good enough to do it, but thus far it hasn't been proven yet."

Black also said he loves playing defense -- which happens to be a desperate need for the Lakers this season. The NBA lists Black as 6-foot-11, but he's a bit shorter than the 6-foot-10 Ed Davis.

How tall is he really?

"In shoes, 6-foot-9," he said. "That's not something I did myself, it's just the way it came out."

Black is under contract with the Lakers now for two seasons. He hopes to make the best of his time.

"I don't want to look at it as like a chip on the shoulder," said Black. "I'm thankful and grateful for my opportunity.

"This is a blessing for me and I want to take full advantage of it."

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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