Posted Aug 15 2010 3:51PM
Trevor Ariza thought he found traction just 14 months ago. Starters on championships teams, especially 23-year-old ones, don't usually worry about job security.
Ariza is going to have a job in this league for a long time. He's just got to be questioning where.
Since that title run with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009, Ariza has added two more cities to his résumé. He signed for five years with Houston last summer, the kind of contract that normally leads to putting down some roots.
He might want to rent in New Orleans.
Ariza was one of the centerpieces in last week's four-way trade between the Hornets, Rockets, Pacers and Nets. New Orleans jettisoned a promising young point guard in the deal for an established young swingman on a team in dire need of one.
It's the first move for first-time general manager Dell Demps, who said Ariza brings a "dynamic" element to the roster. Demps noted the athletic swingman's ability to score, defend and get out on the break.
"Basically," Demps said Saturday, "check a bunch of boxes."
Peja Stojakovic, the oft-injured incumbent at small forward, doesn't own Ariza's skill set. And going into the last year of his monster contract, Stojakovic isn't part of the team's future.
The Ariza deal is as much about the future as it is this season. Pairing a dynamic wing with Chris Paul is just one step in a two-year dance with Demps and first-time coach Monty Williams leading the band.
Giving CP3 reasons to stay in New Orleans, which is Paul's stated preference despite an opt-out in 2012, depends on the Hornets' ability to win. The franchise has gone from 56 wins to 37 in two years, and the Western Conference is only getting deeper.
Ariza, alone, isn't enough. The Hornets also dealt for Marco Belinelli last week, and have infused the team with youth (Marcus Thornton, Quincy Pondexter and Craig Brackens) over the last two drafts. New Orleans also has some extra cap room, thanks to also trading away the disappointing James Posey, to work with going forward.
The move isn't without its risks. Darren Collison, dealt to Indiana, showed as a rookie last season all the makings of a frontline point guard. Collison was both an excellent insurance policy (injury) and possible replacement (trade/free agency) for Paul. Losing Collison now could haunt the Hornets for years to come.
But if Hornets can convince Paul to stay -- that's the challenge for this new and still wet-behind-the-ears regime -- moving his backup, however promising, is understandable if talent is added at positions of greater need. Ariza is at one of those positions.
"He's not a piece," Demps said. "He's a big part of what we're trying to build here."
Ariza must have thought the same in Houston after swapping franchises and starting gigs with Ron Artest last summer. Taking on the most responsibility of his six-year career, he set personal bests in every major statistical category but one. Ariza also shot a career-low 39.4 percent, and shot selection was at the top of Williams' agenda in his first phone call with Ariza.
The new coach liked what he heard from his new player about Ariza's role with the Rockets. Williams expects to Ariza, a nearly 15 point-per-game scorer last season, to be a "huge improvement" for a team that missed the playoffs for the first time in three years.
"Having someone as versatile as Trevor, offensively and defensively, is going to be great for us," Williams said.
Ariza, naturally, is looking for some stability in a career that began as a second-round pick by New York in 2004. He was traded to Orlando the following season and to the Lakers in 2007. The move to the West Coast appeared ideal, especially since he was raised in Los Angeles and went to UCLA.
His confidence only grew during the 2009 championship march, as Ariza started every playoff game and made his presence felt at both ends of the court. Now he's taking the same confidence to the Big Easy. He sees parallels between himself and New Orleans, saying they share the characteristics of "rebuilding and growing."
He's 25, on his fifth team and has four years left on his contract. Maybe he'll stick for a while.
"I just want to be part of the team in a place I can call home for a while," Ariza said. "I've played a lot of places, but hopefully this will be a stop and I'm here for a long time."
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