Trevor Ariza: "Nothing That’s Worth Having Has Been Extremely Easy"
The Veteran Discusses The Early Part Of His Career, His Process Of Getting Back Into Rhythm And More
Photo Credit: David Alvarez
When the HEAT traded for Trevor Ariza in mid-March, a lot was made about him being a perfect fit for the team. And well, that has proven to be true over the past month and a half.
Since making his debut on March 19, Ariza ranks third on the squad with 57 deflections and a plus-4.3 net rating. Oh yeah, his on/off metrics are pretty impressive too:
|On: 113.3||On: 109.0|
|Off: 109.9||Off: 115.8|
“His versatility is so critical for this team. It’s not underrated at all for us…he just unlocks so much of our versatility,” Erik Spoelstra said. “And then offensively, he just knows how to play off of people. He’s played this role for a long time with some of the best players in this league. He knows how to fit in. He knows how to make you pay if you’re trying to help too much, knows how to get behind the defense on cuts. Just a very heady, savvy, veteran winner.”
That savvy, veteran winner chatted with HEAT.com over the phone after a recent practice to discuss the early part of his career, his process of getting back into rhythm and much more.
Check it out below.
Note: some of this interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Before we get into basketball stuff, I wanted to ask you a couple off-court questions real quick. I saw some photos on your IG of your travels to Egypt and Turkey in September. How fun was that?
It was real fun. I got to experience the world in a different light. I got to know different ways of life, different walks of life. I got to see the pyramids, got to know the country of Egypt as far as like the history behind Giza and Cairo. It was dope. It was fun. Turkey’s a beautiful country as well, aside from all like the politics and all that stuff that they’re going through. It’s a beautiful country.
Another thing I noticed on your IG is that you’re always jamming in your car on your story. What artists are heavy in your rotation right now?
(Laughs) Man, I think everybody really. Everything that’s new, Lil Baby for sure, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, Lil Durk.
Alright, getting into basketball stuff now, when Pat Riley talked to us after the trade deadline, he said that he worked you out in Dominguez Hills back in 2004.
What do you remember most about that pre-draft workout?
I was just excited that they even knew who I was. Growing up in LA, Pat Riley won championships with the Lakers, so you know that if he knows anything about you, he feels like you have some sort of winning pedigree. So, at 18, just for him to just even know who I was was a really motivating feeling.
Did he have you do any crazy drill or maybe something that you hadn’t done before?
I’m not sure. I just know like he went extremely hard in there. (Laughs) It was cool, though, because one of my childhood friends was in the workout as well [Dorell Wright], and the HEAT ended up drafting him, so that was really dope.
A lot of people remember you for your stint with the Lakers and winning a championship. What do you remember most about that season and what it took to win, and how have you used that experience here?
It was a different experience. Again, I was a younger player. Andrew Bynum was the youngest, and I think then it was myself. But I got to learn a lot, and I got to play with one of the greatest players to ever play [Kobe Bryant]. And just to see how he approached the game, how he worked every day, it definitely seeped over into my work ethic and the things that I do to prepare to play and make sure that I have a long career as well.
When you were a free agent in 2014, the HEAT showed interest in you. Based on a report I read, you said that Riley’s pitch about the culture and organization was great. What was that whole process like, and what stood out to you the most from those discussions and meetings with Pat?
The thing that I could remember is how great he wanted everything to be as far as like even going into preparation to going into offseason training, how hard this organization worked to be first class and to be winners, and that was something that I just fell in love with. And I wanted to be here then. It didn’t work out the way that we both probably wanted it to, but I’m here now, and I got the opportunity to be here at this point.
You’ve played for some great coaches during your tenure in the league from Lenny Wilkens and Phil Jackson to Rick Adelman and Mike D'Antoni. What stands out to you about Coach Spo thus far?
Coach Spo is direct. Exactly what he wants from you, he’s going to get from you. He’s going to tell you what he needs. He’s a straightforward dude. And I believe he builds and puts confidence in his players, but he’s also demanding as well, which is a good thing because with the talent in this league, sometimes we rely on our talent more so than our actual tank that we don’t know that we have. And here, they’re going to go into that reserve tank, and the things that you didn’t know that you had in you, you’re going to get up out of you. And a lot of times, that ends up being that extra inch, that extra push that you need to achieve great things.
That’s super cool.
It is. I love that.
Bam Adebayo said he’s had some conversations with you and that you’re going up the rankings of his favorite teammates. What has that relationship been like, and what jumps out to you about Bam both on and off the court?
I think that Bam is somebody that wants to learn any way that he can, so like any bit of information that anybody has to offer him that’s going to better him, better his team, he’s willing to hear and incorporate into his play and into what he’s doing. The thing that I like the most about him is that it doesn’t take a lot of time for him to apply the things that he’s learning because he has a really high IQ, and he’s a really smart basketball player. So, once the information is passed to him, it goes through his mind, I guess he goes through scenarios, and he just puts them in play.
In terms of you, you’ve gotten better and better with each passing game and are now a staple in the starting lineup. I know you trained and did a lot of work behind the scenes with Remy before joining the team, but how has the process of getting back in rhythm been for you?
It’s been great, it’s been challenging, it’s been frustrating, it’s been beautiful, it’s been everything that you can imagine a transition would be. The part about it that makes it so beautiful is that it’s a part of the journey, it’s a part of the process. And nothing that’s worth having has been extremely easy. You got to go through things in order to feel the greatness of whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish. It just makes the accomplishment that much greater. But again, the best thing I think that I could have done was to stay in shape.
Right. Of course.
Yeah, because if I wasn’t in shape, it could have been a whole other way.
Since you joined the squad in the middle of March, you’ve racked up a ton of deflections and have held your own against some tough covers. How much pride do you take in being a versatile defender who can switch and guard multiple positions?
I take a lot of pride in anything that I do. I might not be the best at everything I do, but I’m damn sure not going to be the worst. I give my best effort at everything, so I think that I take a lot of pride in any time I step on the floor with anything that is asked of me.
I know you’re all about winning, but do you have any personal career goals?
I would probably say I would like to win another championship. I would like to play for as long as I feel like I can play at an elite level, however long that is is how long I would like to play. But other than that, I don’t really feed too much into stats, and I don’t really feed too much into personal goals because from AAU, my teachers always taught me that when everybody’s doing well, everybody does well, period. So, that’s the standard I live by. When the team wins, everybody wins, so I can score two points, one point, get three rebounds, if our team wins, that’s all that matters to me. I feel like I have my worst days when I score however many points or get whatever, and we lose. Those are the bad days for me.
Yeah, I thought your effort on that offensive rebound that Bam got against the Spurs, the one where he got the and-one, I feel like that really was a huge play by you. That kind of just popped into my head as you were mentioning that, so I definitely see what you’re saying.
Yeah, those are the things that nobody would know that my teammates would appreciate. That makes it sweet for me. Scoring 20, everybody could see that. But the little plays that people don’t know about is what makes the thing sweet because my teammates would appreciate it.
Exactly. What’s your biggest message to the team as you make this playoff push?
I don’t know. I think I’ll talk to them about it. (Laughs)
Gotcha. Last one for you, I saw you wished your first born a happy 13th birthday a little while ago. And I understand that he was named after your late brother who tragically passed away at such a young age. How important was it for you to honor your brother like that, and how much do you enjoy being a father to Tajh and your other children?
(Takes a deep breath) That’s probably the most challenging, special gift that God has given. That’s my first job on this earth is to make sure that my offspring are as smart as they can be and as well prepared for this world as they can be. So, I take that very seriously. I love being a father, and I couldn’t ask for better children.