Trevor Booker wants people to know that he’s a nice guy.
Off the court, that is.
“On the court, I’m focused. I’m going to do whatever I can to win. If that means knocking you out of the air, I’m going to do it,” he said Tuesday, as the newest member of the Utah Jazz met with reporters in Salt Lake City. “Off the court, I’m just a laid-back, chill guy. But when you get me on the court, I’m just an animal.”
The Jazz front office wanted to add physicality to the team’s front court and they seem to have found it with Booker, whom Utah officially signed to a two-year deal worth up to $10 million on Monday.
The 6-foot-8 power forward spent his first four seasons in the NBA with the Washington Wizards, averaging 6.8 points and 5.3 rebounds a night.
In Utah, Booker will have to fight for playing time in a crowded front court, but it’s a challenge he said he embraces.
“They told me I’ll have to earn my minutes,” he said. “They told me no minutes are given.”
Booker wants to provide “toughness, a lot of energy, leadership and experience,” to a young Jazz team.
He’ll also provide a different look at the 4-spot than backups Jeremy Evans, the springy but slender forward, or Steve Novak, the 6-foot-10 deep threat. Booker averages 53.4 percent from the field for his career. He’s good with a mid-range jump shot and he’s comfortable putting the ball on the floor.
Last year in Washington, Booker started 45 games, filling in for the injured Nene as the team made its playoff push.
Booker had four offers but ultimately settled on Utah, intrigued by its young core, a new coach and an endorsement from former Jazzman Josh Howard.
“When I told people I was coming to Utah, they were like, ‘Where’s Utah?’ ” Booker said. “But from what I see, I think I’ll love the city.”
And he sees similarities to Washington here — at least in terms of hoops.
“My first three years, we struggled a lot. It’s no secret,” he said. “But we added some pieces that fourth year and we got a lot done. The veterans came in and gave us a boost.”
In Utah, Booker, still just 26, will be expected to play the part of veteran.
“It’s definitely going to be different,” he said. “In Washington, we had so many older guys that were older than me. To come to a team where I’m one of the older guys is going to be different. But I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
Booker’s deal is not fully guaranteed for the second year; reportedly, the Jazz could only be on the hook for $225,000.
But Booker is not looking at it as another contract year.
“I’m just going to come in not with that on my mind,” he said. “Just come in and do what they need me to do.”
Trevor Booker stats
Season Gms Min FG% Pts Reb
2010-11 65 16.4 .549 5.3 3.9
2011-12 50 25.2 .531 8.4 6.5
2012-13 48 18.5 .491 5.3 5.0
2013-14 72 21.6 .551 6.8 5.3
Career 235 20.3 .534 6.4 5.1