dEDGE Post Scriptum
My initial thoughts were that of disbelief and sadness. It had only been a few weeks since the jubilant and joyous Los Angeles Lakers victory parade past Staples Center down to the Memorial Coliseum celebration, and yet already we’re throwing dirt on Trevor Ariza like a distant memory, faded and eroded into oblivion. Have we forgotten his key plays throughout the playoffs that propelled us into the NBA Finals? Have we disregarded his work ethic over the past summer that enabled him to connect on 47.6% of his three pointers in these same playoffs? Have we as a society, become too concerned with today and tomorrow and have disregarded what had happened yesterday?
Perhaps I could have stomached this better if the deal took place right before training camp. Or if Ariza’s representatives and Mitch Kupchak were embroiled over a bitter dispute over millions of dollars. But what this boils down to was a premeditated stalking by Ron Artest and a backroom handshake that blossomed into Ariza’s departure. Had Ron-Ron possessed any self dignity, he wouldn’t have been following Kobe Bryant around all post-season, or into the showers for that matter… Instead of plotting his revenge with his Rocket teammates, he decided to cast off and jump ship. Hell, if you can’t beat ‘em, you might as well join ‘em.
Tampering issues aside, this deal was brokered by Artest’s persistence. Unfortunately for Ariza, he was caught in the middle with little hope of returning. Could Trevor have accepted the Lakers initial offer? Sure. But come on, who ever say’s yes to the first offer? Do you just plop down the asking price for the car you want even though in your mind there are no other options? Of course not, that would be foolish of you not to try and negotiate. But as soon as Ariza indicated that he wanted to negotiate, he was shown the door in favor of an older model with some dents on the fender and slightly more mileage on the odometer.
I could list a number of reasons why Ron Artest is a better player than Trevor Ariza. I could also, and will probably do so in the not so distant future, write about how Ron Artest single handedly keyed a Lakers victory or clutched one from the hands of defeat. But this is not about Ron Artest. This is about Trevor Ariza and the contributions that he made which helped bring the 2009 NBA Championship to the city of Los Angeles. Without his timely offensive and defensive contributions, the Los Angeles Lakers would not have won the title, let alone, made it past our Western Conference foes.
Do not forget the steal. The Western Conference Finals would have gotten off to a horrible start had Trevor not cut into the passing lane and picked off the inbounds pass to Chauncey Billups. We could easily have been down 0-2 going back to Denver. And again in Game 3 on the road, Ariza picks off a Kenyon Martin inbounds pass and forces Carmelo Anthony to commit his sixth foul putting the Lakers up by 4 with under half a minute to play. He saved two games all by himself.
Do not forget the big shots. The acrobatic windmill jam that posterized Dahntay Jones. The corkscrew slam in traffic. The key treys in Game 5 of the Finals that effectively caused the Orlando Magic to float to the surface, belly-up and eyes closed.
Do not forget the passion. Head-to-head with Hedo Turkoglu, calmly explaining to the Turkish forward of his impending date with defeat. Eye-to-eye with the entire Portland bench after his near swat on Rudy Fernandez. Barking at Sasha Vujacic for jacking up another selfish shot and not running the intended play.
Do not forget the intangibles. He never complained or created any off-court drama. He did what was asked of him. He was a good teammate and a fierce competitor. He improved over last season and was intent on further improvement. He made big plays amongst a roster full of stars. (Think of the contributions that players like Kurt Rambis, AC Green, and Rick Fox had brought to championship teams of the past.) He did not demand the ball, the limelight, or the attention, but always rose to the occasion.
It’s hard not to cheer for someone who finally makes it, through hard work, perseverance and dedication. It’s even more difficult when that person is homegrown and part of the community. Top it off with the fact that he appears to be a genuine nice guy, and his departure is akin to your best friend moving away clear across town. Sure, we’ll all learn to eventually like the new kid, but this wasn’t a move that Ariza chose to take. He was the jilted lover, the good guy that finished last, the sidekick and the supporting actor. Never truly forgotten, but never truly remembered either.
You want fellows like Ariza to succeed. I’d love for him to score 40 points against his former teammates, but only as long as the Lakers prevail and win the game. I hope he becomes a perennial all-star to prove his doubters wrong, as long as the Lakers keep beating the Rockets. And I hope that he’ll consider coming back home once our replacement model breaks down and it’s time to go car shopping again. Thank you and good luck Trevor Ariza. I for one will not forget you.