Sometimes the unheralded move is the one that puts teams over the top in sports — the kind of move that nobody seems to remember or even talk about. This was none the more apparent on Nov. 20, 2007 when the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Trevor Ariza from the Orlando Magic in exchange for the immortal Maurice Evans and the immovable Brian Cook. It was one of those sneaky moves that Mitch Kupchak has been known for during his tenure as general manager, and it helped pay off in the form of the 2009 NBA Championship as Ariza exploded during the postseason.
Unfortunately, the Lakers were not able to re-sign him during that offseason due to some very poor negotiating tactics from Ariza’s agent, David Lee. Five years have passed, and now Ariza will be an unrestricted free agent this summer albeit with much bigger names out there. A lot of the talk will be about the purple and gold trying to sign another small forward like Carmelo Anthony, but something tells me Kupchak has a backup plan that involves reuniting Kobe Bryant with his former running mate.
Ariza never quite got over leaving the Lakers and left behind some unfinished business as he felt he could have been part of a dynasty. The ninth-year man out of UCLA is enjoying a career year with the Washington Wizards, averaging 14.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.8 steals, while shooting 41.3 percent from three. Interestingly enough, Ariza signed with Bryant’s agent Rob Pelinka last summer in anticipation for his impending free agency, leaving behind Lee.
Bryant and Ariza’s bond is very strong as they have continued to keep in touch since the latter left the Lakers. Ariza is one the few people in the league who is in Kobe’s inner circle, and that is a huge deal when speculating where he might land.
Ariza is still just 28 years old with the prime of his career ahead of him, and has also proven to be a great complementary piece next to the “Black Mamba.” He was once interviewed by Hoopshype.com about returning to Los Angeles one day and said:
“I just want to play basketball. It would be nice to play in front of my family, but if that doesn’t ever happen again it doesn’t matter as long as I’m playing basketball. I love playing basketball.”
One thing is for sure; Ariza’s return would make for a great story, and the Lakers more than anybody need a sprinkle of some of their old magic.