Off the court, I'm just a laid-back, chill guy. But when I'm on the court, I'm just an animal. —Trevor Booker
SALT LAKE CITY — Trevor Booker's goal is to bring some much-needed toughness and a physical inside presence to a young Utah Jazz team, which was sorely lacking in both of those areas last season.
That might sound like mighty bold talk for a guy whose favorite food is that manly meal commonly called breakfast cereal — nowadays he prefers Raisin Bran with banana, although his all-time fave would be Cinnamon Toast Crunch — but the 6-foot-8 power forward feels like he's got a tough-guy side to him that this team can definitely use.
"When I'm on the court, I'm focused and I'll do whatever it takes to win," said Booker, a free agent who was signed by the Jazz on Monday to a two-year deal and met with the media on Tuesday at Zions Bank Basketball Center. "If that means knocking you out of the air, I'm gonna do it.
"Off the court, I'm just a laid-back, chill guy. But when I'm on the court, I'm just an animal."
Utah could use a little of that fierce in-the-paint intensity and physicality after sputtering through a 25-57 record last season.
Booker comes to the Jazz after spending his first four NBA seasons in Washington, where he averaged 6.4 points and 5.1 minutes per game in 235 career games, including 105 starts. He averaged 6.8 points and 5.3 rebounds last season, when he helped the Wizards reach the first round of the NBA playoffs.
He's well aware that, in joining the Jazz, he's going to have to earn his playing time — something he's actually looking forward to doing.
"The biggest thing that stood out to me is they told me I would have to earn my minutes," Booker said. "They told me that no minutes are given, you have to earn it, and that's the biggest thing for me. I like to earn things and I like when other players have to earn it, too.
"I met with the organization and coaching staff and management, and we clicked right away. They were very honest from the get-go. They have a great group of guys, good core players with a lot of potential, and I think I have a lot to offer to this team.
"They have a lot of potential," he said of the young Jazz squad. "I think they're very humble guys from just playing against them and what I hear, so they really impressed me. I just think I can fit in well with this team."
Booker, who said he hopes to bring "toughness, a lot of energy, leadership and experience" to his new team, liked the idea that new Utah coach Quin Snyder "takes pride in developing players. I think that was a huge key and like I said, he was very honest from the get-go about having to earn your minutes, so I think those two key factors helped bring me here."
Much like the Jazz did last season, Booker has been through similar struggles in Washington, a perennial losing franchise before the Wizards broke through last year, and he's hoping he can help the Jazz do the same thing.
"It was a big-time experience for me and for the team," he said of their playoff run, "and I think I can bring that same experience here in helping get their team over the hump."
And as for his affection for breakfast cereal?
"Growing up, we always ate cereal, We ate probably at least 15 boxes a week between me and my brother," he said. "We used to eat cereal any time of day; sometimes we'd eat cereal for dinner."
Now, he's hoping to use that toughness he inherited from his dad to help the Jazz devour a few more opponents on the court this coming season.