This has all been, um, interesting for Carlos Boozer.
He arrived in Los Angeles with a shrug from most Lakers followers. They wanted to see rookie Julius Randle at power forward, not him.
Then he lost his starting job 20 games into the season, pouted for a couple of days, ditched reporters and professed disappointment to Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak.
Then came the latest twist, an unexpected one — he took over the huddle during a fourth-quarter timeout and exhorted the Lakers despite a rapidly disintegrating lead.
So they went out and finished off the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, 111-103, behind a triple-double from Kobe Bryant and, indeed, 19 points and nine rebounds from Boozer.
“I felt like we had a huge lead,” Boozer said, recounting what he said to teammates. “I felt like we were losing sight of the goal at the end, which was to win. We started doing a couple things that we’re not usually doing so I just told the guys, ‘No matter what happens, play to win.’
“We put Kobe back in, put Wes [Johnson] back in and we did a good job of just closing the game out.”
Despite his initial objection, Boozer, 33, has been solid with the second unit, averaging 14.4 points and 8.4 rebounds while shooting 56.2%, a boost from his numbers as a starter (12.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 49.8%).
Tuesday’s game wasn’t perfect for Boozer. Undersized point guard Nate Robinson got behind him and blocked his shot out of bounds in the fourth quarter, to the utter delight of Nuggets fans. Then Jusuf Nurkic blocked his layup attempt after the Lakers inbounded the ball.
But Boozer’s efforts throughout the game — and since his demotion — haven’t gone unrecognized.
“Carlos has been a great professional all year long,” Bryant said. “He really supported the guys, picked them up and when he’s stepped in, he’s made significant contributions.”
Bryant’s playing time
A longtime friend and former teammate wasn’t so sure Bryant would agree to a reduction in playing time.
But Brian Shaw didn’t talk directly to Bryant about it.
Bryant seemed fine with Coach Byron Scott’s idea to trim his playing time by two to three minutes a game.
“When I was younger, I could play those minutes. I could handle those minutes. Now I can’t,” Bryant said. “There’s no use in fighting it. You accept it, you play around it and you figure it out.”
Scott said he wanted to reduce Bryant’s minutes from 35 to 32 or 33 a game. Shaw, now the Nuggets’ coach, was less optimistic Bryant would go along with it.
“I think it works early in the game … he’ll come sit down willingly,” Shaw said. “But if it’s in the middle of the game and it’s close, he wants to win worse than anybody else out there, so it’s good luck trying to keep him out of the game if you’re trying to keep him to a minutes schedule.”
Shaw, however, predicted Bryant’s recent three-game rest would be helpful. And that was before he gashed the Nuggets for 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists, becoming the first player with a triple-double against the Nuggets in Denver since Jason Kidd in 2008.
“It will help kind of rejuvenate him for the short term until he wears himself down again,” Shaw said. “You see players around the league that are his age — you see [Tim] Duncan, [Manu] Ginobili, [Tony] Parker … Kevin Garnett, they get rest from time to time.”