Monday, September 5, 2011
From a Lake Show starter to finisher.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
"If there’s a ball somewhere and you know its been bobbled around, ama get it". Trevor Ariza-2008.
Trevor Ariza speaks with the confidence that is needed to be the type of role player who steps up and makes clutch plays in the NBA playoffs. Let's take it back to '08 for a second of nostalgia. It is the following morning after Trevor made a critical steal against the Denver Nuggets for the second time in the Western Conference Finals, sealing the victory for his Los Angeles Lakers side. Swarmed by reporters at practice the following morning Ariza is now stealing the spotlight from Kobe and the rest of the Lakers elite. This is no wonder as without those two steals the Lakers might have been heading to the fishing lakes instead of the NBA Finals.
The first steal came in the tightly fought game one where the Lakers prevailed thanks to that clutch steal and some crunch time free throws. Trevor Ariza uses two of the most important facets of his game in these key plays; anticipation and acceleration. Trevor can see the game before it happens like Magic Johnson, telling us; “Just staying locked in defensively, not having any mental lapse on the defensive end, and try to execute often” and he can turn it up like big game James Worthy. Anthony Carter threw an inbounds pass to Chauncey Billups that would ordinarily be routine, but Trevor read the pass perfectly and with gazelle like speed sprinted down court drawing a key foul.
These are the plays that NBA championships are made of. These are the plays that all-stars make. Former NBA MVP Kobe Bryant acknowledged Trevor stealing away for his teams win, “He made a terrific read, he had tremendous speed, great energy and great anticipation, it was a heck of a play”. Real recognizes real and having the best player in the league recognizing your talent speaks volumes for the type of player you are. Trevor looks familiar. For the Lakers playoff picture in 2008 and championship creation in 2009, the former UCLA bruin Ariza was as significant as leading man Kobe’s two co-stars Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom and even 'the man' himself. The director of this piece, Lakers coach Phil Jackson appreciated Trevor upping his performance at the aforementioned game ones final curtain, saying; “Trevor had really a frustrating night but he made two plays that were very instrumental in helping us win.”
Two games, forty seven minutes and twenty five seconds later in the series the Lakers needed someone to stop one last run by the Nuggets. So again Trevor Ariza stepped up defensively. In an almost identical play, Trevor anticipated, accelerated and stole an inbounds pass from Kenyon Martin intended for Carmelo Anthony, game Lakers. Ariza gave his all in this play so the Lakers would prevail, adding; “We’ve come too far in the season to fail, If I do that I’m letting my team down”. Trevor thinks like the type of big playoff contributors the Lakers franchise has been churning out for decades and championships. Trevor comes from the same school of stepping it up that Lakers greats Michael Cooper and Robert Horry and more attended.
Trevor knows that the playoffs are a different game to the rest of the NBA season and that’s why he made and still today-for his new, New Orleans team-makes big plays when the time calls for it, despite often being a background contributor to guys like Kobe or Chris Paul. The important thing Ariza knows is the importance of making the most of every chance he can get. So even if he has a game where he isn’t one of the biggest contributors, or if he is having an off night, every possession is still another opportunity for him and his team to prevail. Trevor Ariza has a great mental capacity for high pressure games, "Just forget about everything that happened the play before and just worry about the next play, can’t cry over spilt milk” he says and believes. This is the attitude of a guy who gets up after being knocked down, no matter how many times. This is the attitude of a winner.
These clutch plays that Trevor made is further reason to why he was given a starting position on a Lakers team littered with big time players as he helped lead his former franchise to an elusive championship in 2009 following their 2008 losing effort against Boston. Trevor earned this blood, by blood, steal by steal, sweat by sweat, dunk by dunk, tear by tear and big-play by big-play. A starting position which resulted in a then career high 26 points against the Dallas Mavericks, coupled with 3 steals, 3 rebounds and 2 assists across the board. Fans, teammates and opponents alike all didn’t expect this much from Ariza. His contributions has Marv Albert repeating one of his famous catchphrases, “How about Ariza?”.
Indeed how about Ariza, who has been coming up as big as any other player throughout the playoff campaigns over the years. Whether it be the defensive plays, hitting big three pointers or the emphatic, rim breaking, opponent confidence shaking, energy of team awakening dunks. Give this guy even a hint of an inch of room and he’ll take it and force the ball to the hoop with authority. Despite the angle, despite the degree of difficulty and despite the players in front of him. He wont be denied and he’ll defy gravity in the way he powers to the basket. From the defensive end to the offensive end, there's few better runners, starters and finishers, whether that be of his teams play or opponents.
Trevor’s moves have been on replay in fans minds and on YouTube collectively since the start of his career when he was taken at a criminally low 43rd overall in the 2004 draft by the Knicks. Still, however if he wasn’t getting the exposure he deserved as an exciting rookie in New York, or his time in Orlando, he’s certainly getting it now following his time in the celebrity capital of the world. Despite playing in an arena full of famous fans like Leonardo DiCaprio, Denzel Washington and of course Jack Nicholson, night-in night-out in 2009, Trevor was the one who drew the crowds gaze.
In late 2007 the Lakers gave up the promising talent of Maurice Evans and Brian Cook for the proven talent of the Orlando Magic’s Trevor. Then just over a month later, on December 25Th, Ariza gave them a great Christmas present. He unwrapped an amazing facial dunk over Grant Hill and the Phoenix Suns, giving the Lakers the enthusiasm and motivation needed to take the victory. This kept bloggers busy but also injected a new sense of excitement to a Lakers squad that was beginning to come together. It was now evolving from a blossoming team into a championship caliber unit in full bloom.
The last time the Lakers where a contender they had Shaquille O’Neal. In 2009 they went back to the top thanks to Kobe and the right compliment pieces that where running a lot more in a fast paced, exciting offense. This offense is reminiscent of the classic ‘Showtime’ era of the Lakers in the 80’s. These 21st century Lakers can run and finish strong whether it be Kobe, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum. Still, however with great first step acceleration and electrifying dunks nobody on the Lakers roster epitomized the Showtime style of play more than Trevor Ariza did in his time (sorry Shannon, your still real close). That’s right, whether it be starting or finishing a fast break when Ariza was involved every seat in the house was vacant. Running as smooth as Jamaal Wilkes and taking it hard to the basket like Byron Scott, when Trevor was on top form it was Showtime baby!
It all seems like yesterday that Ariza was wearing the Lakers three on the teams quest for their own trio but it was two years, two teams (Houston and New Orleans) and two alike replacements in Ron Artest (defensively) and Devin Ebanks (physically) ago. Still despite the filled voids and the valid championships, Trevor Ariza is still missed and was a big part of the Lakers who would be a piece that would help them so much in the playoff puzzle. His speed, steals, hustle, determination and tenacious passion will always be missed by the Lakers and cherished by who he plays for. Even though Trevor may never don purple and gold again, he'll always be certified as an iconic Laker member and one of the prime reasons this team was successful in returning to their glory days. On this court he'll always be a star, thanks to his walk to fame. The championships belong to him as much to anyone as he played his supporting role to a tee on the fairways of Hollywood.
“Everyone has to contribute if we wanna win, everybody has to do their part”Trevor Ariza-2008.
Trevor certainly did his.