When it was first announced that the Los Angeles Lakers were trading for dynamic point guard Russell Westbrook, questions immediately began circulating about how they would fill the rest of their roster. As free agency opened just a few days later, veteran wing Trevor Ariza was the first name to make a public agreement with the Lakers.
Ariza last played with the Lakers during the 2008-09 season when L.A. took home the first of two consecutive championships with Kobe Bryant at the helm. Since then, he has bounced around a large chunk of NBA teams, providing shooting, solid defense and leadership anywhere he went.
This — and a long-term friendship — is likely why Westbrook knew he needed to get Ariza on the phone when the trade to the Lakers first announced. Ariza spoke about that call when his signing was made official.
“It’s funny because Russ got traded and 20 minutes after he got traded he was on my phone,” Ariza said. “I don’t know if he was telling me he was happy to be home or he wanted to go to dinner or what he wanted to do. I just know he called my phone like, ‘Yo, what are you doing? Where are you at? I need to talk to you, I need to see you.’ From then on we kept in contact like that. Constant communication and it just so happened that I’m here.”
Ariza added though that it was his children that were the main ones recruiting him back to L.A.
“But I think the biggest recruiter, if you want me to be honest, was my children. My children being here for the past three years without traveling because I’ve been moving around so much that they were ready for me to be home and I wanted to be home with them.”
Ariza also said that the Miami Heat and the Lakers were the only two teams he would have played for. By all measures, it appears the Ariza signing was always going to happen and the Westbrook trade just solidified it.
Now, Ariza has a chance to play a relatively large role for the Lakers. Outside of LeBron James, the roster currently does not have any impactful wing defenders like Ariza, meaning he could be taking a lot of superstar matchups during the regular season.
Howard felt destined to return to L.A.
Obviously, the Lakers prioritized returning veterans when deciding on free agency. Ariza, Kent Bazemore, Wayne Ellington and Dwight Howard are all making reunions this season, but no one was more excited about it than Howard.
“I just think that it’s like we’re supposed to be together,” Howards said at his (re)introductory press conference. “Just something about the Lakers and myself, it’s like we were just supposed to be together. It’s like, I have my greatest times, some of my greatest moments here in a Lakers jersey playing in L.A. and I played with arguably the greatest player in the NBA with Kobe, now playing with LeBron and AD and Russ and Carmelo, it’s like a dream.”
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