Ariza hopes to find home in New Orleans

Saturday, August 14, 2010
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

Now on his fifth different team after six seasons in the NBA, Trevor Ariza emphasized this afternoon that he'd like to carve out a long-term location. He figured to have found it last summer when he signed a multi-year free agent contract with Houston, but the Rockets dealt him only one year into the deal.

“(The trade) came as a surprise to me,” Ariza said after his press conference today at Harrah’s Hotel in downtown New Orleans. “(But) once it went through, I talked to management here and they were excited. It got me more excited. We’re building toward something.”

The 6-foot-8 swingman made an analogy between the city of New Orleans and his professional career, which has been filled with adversity at times, including multiple trades. He also seemed to find an ideal landing spot when he won a title with the Lakers in 2009, but he and the Lakers could not reach a contract agreement. The Lakers eventually replaced him with Ron Artest. Ariza did not appear to gain a permanent foothold in the league until he went to the Lakers, his third NBA team after initial stints in New York and Orlando.

“I feel like New Orleans is a city kind of like myself,” Ariza said. “The city is rebuilding and growing. I feel that at 25 I have a lot of growing to do. I have a lot of passion for my sport, like people here have a passion for their city and their state. I play with a passion, I want to win and hopefully the way I play can help us win championships. I just want to be a part of the team in a place where I can call home for awhile. I’ve been in a lot of places. Hopefully this will be a stop where I’ll be for a long time, and I’ll grow with Chris Paul and the team. Just know that I’m going to work hard and try to bring championships to this city.”

Projecting the impact and role of Ariza

Hornets swingman Trevor Ariza is scheduled to be introduced to the local media at 1 p.m. this afternoon in downtown New Orleans. I’ll have more from the event later today here and on Twitter ( In the meantime, here are a few early observations and pieces of information gleaned over the past couple days about the 6-foot-8’s potential impact in 2010-11:

Why acquire Ariza? What makes the Hornets the most optimistic about what he can bring to the lineup?
Ariza’s ability to contribute in multiple ways, on both ends of the floor. New Orleans has given significant minutes to several somewhat one-dimensional players at the wing positions over the past few seasons, but Ariza is regarded as an above-average defender and is an improving offensive player (career-best 14.9 scoring average in 2009-10).

As frequent jump shooters, neither Peja Stojakovic nor James Posey – the Hornets who’ve logged the bulk of the playing time at small forward – finish well at the rim on fast breaks, but that’s an area where Ariza has excelled. Monty Williams also envisions the 6-foot-8, long-armed and athletic Ariza giving New Orleans the ability to throw a few varied looks at opposing offenses.

Williams: “He brings some things to the table that we just didn’t have. He’s a guy I can use in transition, he’s become a better shooter throughout his career and he’s a guy who’s going to allow me to put in a 3-2 zone and put him at the top of the zone, and put him in a number of spots. He’s a guy that can switch on pick-and-rolls (due to his combination of size and athletic ability), and guard some of the power forwards in this league. He can rebound.”

Will he immediately start?
Ariza has only been a regular starter in the NBA over the past 1 1/2 seasons, beginning with his vital contributions to the 2009 Lakers championship team. On the day of the trade, Williams said it’s not 100 percent certain yet that Ariza will start, but sounded as though it’s likely. Williams also believes Ariza is a more natural small forward than shooting guard. The Hornets’ new head coach added that the 33-year-old Peja Stojakovic may benefit from moving to a bench role. You may recall that the Hornets attempted to shift Stojakovic to the reserve unit at the outset of 2009-10, but poor performance by Julian Wright and the team nixed that experiment. Stojakovic had fully supported his initial move to the second string.

“The lineup is still evolving,” Williams said of his 2010-11 projected rotation. “There’s still some time left in the summer before we have our final team. If I had to put a lineup on the floor today, Trevor would be in that starting lineup. He’s a guy that’s proven he can start in this league. If I had to say today, that lineup (of moving Stojakovic to the bench) might make Peja more efficient. It might take some of the stress off his body. Peja’s a guy who’s played pro ball since he was a teenager, since he was 14 years old. So he’s got a lot of miles. He might like the idea of coming off the bench. It might make his life a little bit easier.”

What effect will Chris Paul have on Ariza?
The New Orleans front office is excited about the pairing of Paul and Ariza, partly because Ariza has never played with an elite point guard in his six-year NBA career. The previous two seasons, for example, Ariza’s starting 1’s were Derek Fisher and Aaron Brooks, both known more for their shooting prowess than ability to set up teammates for open shots. Paul has led the NBA in assists two of the past three seasons, finishing second at 10.7 per game in 2009-10. “He’s never played with a point guard like Chris, so we don’t know how good he can be,” Williams said of Ariza. “That’s what we plan on seeing this year.”

According to new Hornets vice president of player personnel Gerald Madkins – like Ariza, a member of the Houston organization last season – Ariza still has considerable room to improve. “He’s 25 years old,” Madkins said. “He’s a hard-working kid, really intense. I think he sets a pretty high bar for himself, and we’re going to help him achieve that.

“You have to give up something good to get something good,” Madkins said of the Collison-Ariza exchange. “Unfortunately we had to part with (Collison), but I think it’s a great opportunity for Darren to go to Indiana. I would pencil him in as their starter now. I think he’s going to blossom. But for us, it was a situation that we had to take advantage of, getting a guy who’s been a starter for an NBA championship team and knows what it takes to win games. It was tough, but I believe it helped us get better.”