Even though the Los Angeles Lakers dropped a heartbreaker to the Chicago Bulls to close out their three-game road trip, they did get to finally see Trevor Ariza make his 2021-22 season debut.
Ariza had been working his way back from an ankle injury that required surgery in the offseason, but the veteran was cleared to play against the Bulls and looked solid in a limited showing. Ariza played 15 minutes off the bench, knocking down his only attempt of the night to go along with a couple of assists and a rebound.
Even though the 36-year-old suited up, he revealed he was not expecting to play but the team’s issues with injuries and the NBA’s health and safety protocols forced the issue.
“When I woke up, no, I didn’t [expect to play],” Ariza said. “But circumstances happened with our team and I wanted to play, I’ve been wanting to play. I got cleared today to play and I was able to get out there for a few minutes.”
Ariza’s debut was spoiled by a disappointing loss, but the veteran did note that he felt OK physically and believes the team got better overall.
“I felt pretty good. Obviously, being out for so long, it takes a bit of time to catch up to the speed of the game, but for the most part, I felt really good. My wind felt pretty good.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t win, but I feel like we got better today.”
With the lack of wing players on the roster, getting Ariza back is a huge boost to the Lakers, though he is only one solution to many of the team’s current issues. It will be hard to ask more of Ariza in the short term as he ramps up his conditioning and gradually gets back into the swing of things, but at least now L.A. has more options when it comes to building out feasible defensive lineups.
For example, LeBron James ended up taking the responsibility of guarding DeMar DeRozan down the stretch, though Ariza figures to be the primary wing defender once he is fully acclimated. It might be a bumpy ride the next couple of weeks, but having a healthy Ariza is a welcomed development after a tough stretch.
Ariza believes veteran roster will help replace Davis
While getting Ariza back was great news for the Lakers, they also received some bad news with it being announced Anthony Davis will be out at least four weeks with a sprained MCL in his left knee.
Ariza knows that replacing a player of Davis’ caliber is not easy but believes the Lakers’ veteran roster is up for the challenge.
“I think with this group we’re an older group, so we understand when someone goes down, someone else has to step up. This group has a lot of older players or veteran players, so the idea of one person cleaning up the slack of what he brings to our team is impossible. So we have to do it by committee and that’s what the plan is to do.”
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