Trevor Ariza just keeps getting it done for the Lakers.
by Joseph Vecsey
Three years ago, who would have thought you’d rather have Trevor Ariza shooting a critical three in an NBA Finals game than J.J Redick? It’s astonishing to see a guy who was little-known in college and drafted in the second round after just one year at UCLA by the New York Knicks being this big of a factor for the Lakers this year; as opposed to the first-round pick Redick from Duke, who is used on tapes to show shooting skills but isn’t that big of a factor for the Magic. I am not disrespecting Redick—he came in and played a decent 17 minutes the other night in Game 4, but Ariza has become a much bigger factor for his team at this point than Redick is for his.
It’s just funny how things work, especially after Larry Brown branded Ariza as “delusional” in his rookie year when playing for the Knicks. Ariza wondered why he was no longer in the rotation and why did LB say that about him? We still don’t know. And unless I’m hallucinating, Ariza is having a pretty good series; not to mention a pretty good career and, with free agency on the horizon, figures to continue to have one in the future.
Needless to say, Ariza is very happy that Phil Jackson has given him the opportunity to contribute this well. I spoke to Ariza at yesterday’s media availability, and when I asked him what the differences were between playing for Jackson and Brown, he said, “Coach Brown gives tough love, gets on you for every single thing, but still wants you to be the best player you can be. Jackson wants the same thing, but doesn’t beat you with a stick.”
Ariza, who only turns 24 later this month, has a lot of confidence himself and knew he could make it to this point in his career. “I have a lot of confidence in myself and so do the coaches,” Ariza says.
Now remember, this is also the same player the Magic traded to the Lakers in exchange for Brian Cook and Maurice Evans. In all fairness at the time, it wasn’t a bad trade, but maybe they shouldn’t have given him up due to the damage he’s doing in the Finals against them now.
It’s also nice to see someone humble and under the radar play this well. Ariza said a while back that he is dedicating the playoffs to his deceased five-year-old brother Tajh, who fell 30 stories out of an apartment window on March 18th, 1996. Since then he has used his brother as motivation to get himself into the starting lineup of the Lakers. Ariza not only dedicated the playoffs to his deceased brother, but named his first son Tajih in memory of him as well as having many tattoos on his body of Tajih’s face.
Ariza has averaged 11.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.5 steals in 31 mpg during this postseason Playoffs. Again, not bad for a second-round draft pick who is now on the verge of his first championship ring. If/when the Lakers wrap up these Finals, Ariza will probably be given a nice contract that will solidify his existence in the league. Will it be by the Lakers or a different team? I would assume the Lakers will give Ariza the money he wants after helping them win an NBA championship. I’m sure most people would agree that it’s great to see people who go through awful tragedies get to this level in their career. And you know it’s the result of only three things at the end of the day: hard work, extremely focused work ethic, and confidence. Three things we should all admire and strive for in any field that we are in. It will be interesting to see what type of player Ariza turns into in the coming years and if he could possibly be the star of a team if put in that position. Either way, he will be a more than helpful addition to any team he plays on.