trevor ariza

by Kyle Weidie

The last time Trevor Ariza found himself in a contract year, he was on his way to winning the 2009 NBA title with his hometown Lakers.

“We were a very ‘together’ team,” he says fondly about that squad. “We were very close, and when you’re playing with your friends, it’s really dope.”

But L.A. didn’t exactly feel the same way. That summer, they had eyes for Ron Artest. So Ariza somewhat reluctantly signed a contract with Houston.

Ariza didn’t leave Cali with nothing, however. He had suddenly found a three-point shot.

Over his first four NBA seasons, Ariza shot just 9-43 from long distance. In his fifth, 2008-09, Ariza shot 61-191 on threes, a 31.9 percent clip. That postseason, he scorched the nets with 47.6 percent from deep en route to a Championship ring.

Some say the difference in range was Ariza simplifying his shooting motion while rehabbing a foot he broke in January 2008, just two months after being traded from Orlando to L.A. “I got a lot of reps and got my confidence up and had a lot of time to fix things,” he says. “My teammates were telling me when I got back to just shoot no matter what, and that definitely added another level of confidence.”

But a change in shooting motion?

“I don’t know about all that, I just know I grew confidence shooting.”

Now Ariza is on his third NBA team since leaving L.A. and finds himself helping to propel a Wizards franchise to the Playoffs for the first time since 2008. Shooting a career-high 41.2 percent from beyond the arc and snagging 126 steals (12th-most in the NBA) doesn’t hurt.

Maybe it’s his ‘I ain’t got no worries’ chill. Maybe it’s the contract year. Maybe it’s his favorite Kendrick track: “‘Money Trees’…that’s pretty dope.”

Whatever it is, Ariza’s thirsty for the Playoffs. “Every possession counts. The crowd’s into it, the city is usually always behind you, it’s very intense.”