Due to a preseason ankle injury, Trevor Ariza had to wait for his second Los Angeles Lakers debut a little more than the 12 years that had passed since he left the team in 2009.
But he finally put the Lakers jersey back on in December, making his first appearance of the season in a loss to the Chicago Bulls.
Head coach Frank Vogel envisioned Ariza playing a major role for L.A. in 2021-22. As one of the few 3-and-D players on the roster, Vogel thought of the forward as the missing piece to the centerless lineups the team was developing in the preseason, featuring Anthony Davis and LeBron James at the five.
Due to a coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the Lakers still haven’t tested out the original game plan in 2021-22 games. Similarly, Ariza is yet to think about how it feels to be back in L.A.
“It’s weird because I’m a person that kind of lives in the moment and focused in on what I’m doing. Outside distractions or things that’s going on around me I don’t really pay attention to, so I’m just day in and day out grinding trying to get better. Trying to help this team get on track, get wins and figure things out,” the forward said.
“I haven’t had time to think about personally what it feels like to put back on the jersey. I’m just happy that I’m able to do what I love to do. It’s a great group of guys that I’m on the court going through it with and excited for the next opportunity to get on the court.”
Ariza managed to make just two appearances before he entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, placing him back on the Lakers’ list of absentees. That meant the forward couldn’t bid farewell to Staples Center’s iconic name in a recent clash with the San Antonio Spurs.
Ariza names favorite Staples Center memory
Interestingly, Ariza’s best memory of Staples Center dates back to Christmas Day of 2008 — exactly 12 years before the sports complex would become Crypto.com Arena.
“Ironically, playing in Staples Center on Christmas Day … against Boston [Celtics] and winning. That was probably one of the best moments for me playing in Staples Center,” the forward said.
Thanks to the memorable 96-80 win over the Boston Celtics, the Lakers snapped the defending champions’ 19-game winning streak — while then-head coach Phil Jackson chalked up the 1,000th win of his illustrious career.
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