I always enjoy watching the Lakers play the New Orleans Hornets, and last night’s game was no exception. Ever since they drafted Chris Paul in 2005 and made that improbable playoff run a few years ago, the Hornets have been an entertaining team to watch and one I’d love to see in person. CP3 is one of my favorite non-Lakers, a dynamic player who is without a doubt one of the top 3 point guards currently in the league.
Playing the Hornets this year is particularly bittersweet for me because they now have Trevor Ariza, one of my favorite Lakers from the 2009 title run. He came to Los Angeles in November 2007 in a trade for Brian Cook and Maurice Evans (good riddance, I say) and was one of the first new pieces of what would become a championship caliber puzzle. Unfortunately, he was injured just before we got Pau Gasol and didn’t return until the Western Conference Finals. Who knows what we could have achieved if he had been healthy all year and Andrew Bynum hadn’t been injured as well… the short answer is probably another championship, as evidenced by his contribution the following season.
I loved Trevor because of his attitude, his hustle, his acrobatic plays and of course, his steals. It’s easy to say that the Lakers would not have beaten the Denver Nuggets in the 2009 Western Conference Finals without his key inbounds steals in multiple games. I planned on purchasing an Ariza jersey that summer but was prudently warned by my dad to wait and see what happened with trades. As we all know, Trevor was out and Ron-Ron was in. At the time, I was highly skeptical of tinkering with a winning formula and bringing an unknown quantity to the team. In hindsight, it was definitely the right move- Artest has fit in well, and can handle much bigger players in the post.