The Los Angeles Lakers agreed to terms with center Tarik Black to a two-year, $12.85 million deal, bringing the fan favorite back to the franchise he spent the last year and a half with. Black initially came into the league in 2014 as an undrafted rookie with the Houston Rockets but was waived mid-season to make room for Josh Smith.
The Lakers swooped in and scooped up Black, who quickly earned the appreciation of Lakers fans with his high-energy play and thunderous dunks. He was expected to be a key part of the rotation during the 2015-2016 NBA season, but Black’s minutes and role were drastically cut by then-Coach Byron Scott.
Many fans didn’t agree with the move, and it appears that the Lakers brass were confused by it at as well, via Eric Pincus of the Basketball Insiders:
The sense I get, the Lakers never quite understood why B. Scott didn’t play Tarik Black more, was an issue of contention
— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) July 4, 2016
Now, with Scott out the door and new Coach Luke Walton on board, we can expect to see Black’s role increase next season. Walton coached Black for part of a season when he worked as an assistant for the University of Memphis during the 2011 NBA lockout, and will need his steady play to back up starting center Timofey Mozgov.
The Lakers went into the offseason prioritizing centers who can set big screens and then roll hard to the rim (hence Mozgov), and that just so happens to be one of Black’s strengths. He is a bit undersized at 6’9″, but his agility and strength allow him to set useful screens and then roll hard to the rim. He has enough bounce in his step to elevate and finish over defenders, and can also contest shots at the rim defensively.
While it’s not clear exactly why Black was in Scott’s doghouse, it appears that Walton and the Lakers are prepared to right that wrong next season.