LAS VEGAS -- Having just arrived on the UNLV campus early Tuesday evening, Trevor Booker strode up the lengthy concrete steps leading to the Thomas & Mack Center, home of the Las Vegas summer league. Moments earlier the Washington Wizards improved to 3-0 by finishing off the Miami Heat.
No, Booker wasn’t late. That’s not the game or rather, not the team he came to watch.
As the Wizards exited the court, the Utah Jazz took center stage and did so hours after their organization agreed to terms with the free agent forward. Booker spent his first four NBA seasons in Washington. He’ll spend at least the next two in Utah after agreeing to a reported two-year, $10 million offer.
“They wanted me,” Booker said about the Jazz during an exclusive interview with CSN. “We had a meeting Sunday. It went well. I liked them, they like me.
“Washington, I don’t know what happened with that, but I’m definitely happy with my new team.”
Booker was allowed to become an unrestricted free agent when the Wizards declined to make him a qualifying offer of $4.6 million. CSN’s Wizards Insider J. Michael reported earlier on Tuesday that the Wizards didn't believe Booker was worth that price-tag, but were open to retaining him at a lower number with multiple years.
“Not the offer I was looking for. Not close to the offer that I have now,” Booker said. “But it’s a business, I understand. Like I said, I’m very happy with Utah.”
The Wizards quickly countered the loss by agreeing to terms with Celtics free agent power forward Kris Humphries on Tuesday afternoon.
Considered part of Washington’s rebuild during his four seasons, Booker now expects to take on a leadership role with the Jazz. Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter and rookie Dante Exum headline Utah’s youthful roster.
“I like their core players. I know some of the players on their team, great group of guys. Young team so I can go in, be a leader as an older guy, something that I wasn’t able to do in Washington. I’m just looking to start a new chapter,” Booker said.
Selected in the first round of the 2010 draft, the same year that John Wall went No. 1 overall to the Wizards, Booker averaged 6.4 points and 5.1 rebounds in four seasons in Washington.
After injuries hampered his first three campaigns, the energy forward started a career-high 45 games this past season while Nene missed time with various leg injuries. Booker also started in Washington’s Game 4 win over the Bulls in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs after Nene was suspended.
Now, after his first postseason appearance following three losing, and at times trying seasons in Washington, Booker is moving on.
“It’s definitely tough. I’m going to miss my teammates, D.C. and the fans,” he continued. “It wasn’t an easy decision, but I had to do what’s best for me.”