Ariza Comes Full Circle

When Trevor Ariza was traded from the Orlando Magic one month ago, it was only natural that his next stop was Los Angeles. After all, it is in the land of stars that Ariza first came to fame as a member of Westchester High School’s 2002 and 2003 California State Championship teams.

While the UCLA standout may have grown up in Los Angeles, don’t accuse him of being blinded by the glitz and glamour of Hollywood as Trevor is one of the most down to earth, relatable players on the Lakers. Since being acquired on Nov. 20 for Maurice Evans and Brian Cook, he’s also instantly become one of the team’s most reliable defenders too.

The trade that brought him to the Lakers was the third in only three years for Ariza in a career that has already seen extended stops in New York and Orlando. While with the Knicks, Trevor became the youngest rookie to ever grace the floor of Madison Square Garden, quickly earning the trust of teammates and coaches. Ariza also garnered a reputation for his active defense on some of the league’s brightest stars – one of the main reasons the Lakers brought Ariza back to L.A.

Already in his brief time with the Lakers, Ariza has impressed Phil Jackson and other Lakers brass with his energy on defense and acrobatic finishes around the basket. “That’s exactly the kind of player I felt we needed that could make a team have to think with a defensive insertion in the game which changes the course of the game,” said Jackson after a recent Lakers practice.

Although he admits his game is still a work in progress, Trevor is finally home again and ready to share his inspiring story with Lakers fans. recently sat down with Ariza to find out how he’s readjusting to L.A. and the lessons he’s taken away in his career so far.

Q. What was the first thing that went through your head when you found out you were traded to the Lakers?

A. The first thing that went through my head was that I didn’t believe I was coming back home to play. I don’t even know if I can still believe I’m back at home playing, but it’s a wonderful feeling. It’s a good thing to be at home playing.

Q. What is it like being back in L.A.? Is this trade a little easier to swallow since you’re coming back to a place you’re already familiar with?

A. There’s no place like home. I can be around my family a lot more. I get to see my Mom and my brother a lot more. It’s definitely easier this time around since I’m familiar with the surroundings and I know everything pretty much.

Q. What did you miss most about L.A. when you were gone?

A. The great weather. Even though I was in Orlando and they have great weather too…75 here every day, you can’t beat that.

Q. Where in L.A. did you grow up? Did you have any mentors?

A. I grew up in Inglewood. My Mom and my godfather always looked out for me as a youngster and my high school basketball coaches.

Q. How did you first discover basketball?

I first discovered basketball when my stepdad played at the University of Florida. He always told me to stay ready, always work on my game and when I get on the court, just do what I can do.

Q. Did anything in particular growing up motivate you to become a better player?

A. Watching everybody else play and get better and better. I just want to be like one of those guys that can be elite in the NBA one day. Also, when I was younger, I had a brother that passed and I figured if I can go through that – one of my siblings dying – I can go through anything.

Q. What did your brother teach you?

A. My brother stays with me every day. You never know when your last day is going to be, so give it your all every time you step on the court.

Q. Why do you think you were brought to the Lakers?

A. I would say for my energy that I bring to the game. I play hard every game, every time I’m on the court, whether it’s for 30 seconds or 30 minutes. I always play my hardest. Also, I feel like I’m a great teammate. I’m fun, easy to get along with, kind of a jokester a little bit.

Q. What life lessons can you take away from your time in New York and Orlando?

A. In New York, I was young, like 18, 19 so I definitely learned a lot from the older guys I was with since they’ve been in the game for so long. Sometimes, it was Stephon Marbury, Kurt Thomas…all those guys that were in New York with me. In Orlando, I learned what it’s like to bond as a family on your team.

Q. Do you still keep in touch with your old teammates?

A. I talk to them pretty much all the time. They became my pretty good friends.

Q. Even though you’re coming into a foreign offense, you’ve seemed poised in your time on the court. What do you attribute that to? Have any teammates in particular lent a hand?

A. I’m playing with good guys, guys that understand it (the triangle offense) more than me, so I guess my instincts just kick in. Every teammate has helped me adjust. It’s been a team effort.

Q. Coach Jackson said that the Lakers needed to bring in an athletic wing defender. Do you think you can fill that role for this team?

A. I definitely think I can bring that defensive part of the game, but I want to be an all-around player. I don’t just want to be known for one thing.

Q. What is it like to play under a Hall of Fame coach like Phil?

A. I can pick his brain every chance I get. I think that’s going to help me a lot. And everyone that plays with him, that’s going to help them a lot too.