The Lakers’ decision to not increase their initial contract offer to Trevor Ariza in 2009 and then opting to immediately sign Ron Artest, without giving Trevor the chance to explore his options no doubt hurt Trevor.
Initially, many in the media, such as Bill Plaschke, thought the move was a mistake by the Laker brass considering they were coming off a championship season with Ariza and taking a huge risk on a volatile player like Ron Artest. The argument of not trying to fix what was not broken was the majority position taken by many.
Lakers management was validated by the Ron Artest signing at the completion of that 2009-2010 season when the team won their 2nd straight championship with Artest playing a vital role along the way.
At the other end of that trade is quite a different story; Ariza has been unable to duplicate the success or play he showed in his time with the Lakers. The team he signed with after leaving the Lakers, the Houston Rockets, barely played .500 ball and missed the playoffs by eight games. After only one lackluster season in Houston, he was traded to New Orleans prior to the start of this 2010-2011 season.
Despite New Orleans is in desperate need of offensive support of Chris Paul and a team lacking depth off the bench, Ariza’s production has been modest by NBA starter standards. In 34 minutes per game, he is averaging just 11 points per game which would rank him 4th on the team. In the season and a half with the Lakers, Ariza was efficient by shooting 47% from the field. In the Lakers 2009 championship run the Lakers benefited from Ariza’s scorching hot shooting in the playoffs where he shot a shade under 50% from the field and 47% from 3 point land. The ball just is not dropping with great frequency for Ariza since he left the Lakers; he is currently shooting a horrid 39% from the field and woeful 30% from behind the three.
With that familiar long and thin frame, Ariza walked onto the Staples Center floor on Sunday to face the Lakers in Game 1 of their first-round matchup. His offensive struggles since leaving the Lakers aside, Ariza is still every bit as graceful when running the break and slashing to the hoop. Ariza is still very disruptive on the defensive end with his incredibly quick hands and great anticipation. Ariza has something else now that he didn’t have when playing for the Lakers and that’s a mighty big chip on his shoulders. They say that players don’t need motivation once the playoffs start as the goal of a championship is all that is needed. That is probably true, but it doesn’t hurt and Ariza’s motivation will be overflowing in this series.
Trevor has seen the Lakers a few times since his departure from the team but has simply not played well.
Ariza’s stats against the Lakers since leaving in 2009 (Prior to Game 1)
Games: 7 (1 – 6 record)
Points per game: 10.0
Field goal %: 30.3 %
Assist per game: 5.3
Rebounds per game: 5.0
Steals per game: 1.57
Turnovers per game: 3.0
Ariza now has a chance to completely turn around all of the struggles and disappointment that has transpired in his time since leaving the Lakers. Not only will Ariza have an opportunity of taking part in derailing the championship hopes of the team that tossed him aside, but he will also get to battle the very same player he was essentially traded for, Ron Artest.
You are likely not going to hear anything from Ariza in these next few days to make you believe that he still has any feelings of hostility towards the Lakers or that he is getting up for this matchup more than any other. I would suggest that you take those words with a grain of salt. Ariza will forever keep in mind the ease and swiftness that the Lakers exhibited in replacing him after his great contributions during the title run. The Lakers will need to take notice as they will be dealing with a scorned and motivated player in this series. They will need to act just as quickly in their game plans to account for Ariza as they did when deciding to move on without him.