For the past two days, I have been hearing reports about Trevor Ariza leaving the Lakers. The reason he is about to leave is because the Lakers are refusing to give him more than the mid-level exception, which is $5.36 million. The new contract would give Ariza about a $2 million dollar raise.
While contract talks continue with the Lakers saying they won’t budge and Ariza feeling disrespected, the two sides need to realize something. They need each other.
No one had any clue who Ariza was before he came to L.A. last season. Ariza was coming off the bench in Orlando and not receiving much playing time. Once Ariza was traded to L.A. and paired up with Kobe Bryant and eventually Pau Gasol, he started to show real potential.
Before getting hurt during the 2007-08 season, Ariza had started a few games due to injuries and had filled in very nicely. Ariza started last season coming off the bench and proved to be an excellent bench player.
Eventually, Luke Walton realized he shouldn't be starting and that Ariza was better. Once Ariza entered the starting lineup, things came together for the Lakers.
Ariza's success in the playoffs and the NBA Finals has been well documented, and it is no question he was a key component in bringing a title back to L.A.
The big question now is, why is this not resolved already?.
If Ariza leaves for more money, he will face one of two scenarios. One, he will go somewhere that already has a starting small forward, and Ariza will have come off the bench. Two, he will go to a team that doesn't have the same talent as the Lakers, and he will see a huge drop in his production.
Ariza seems to forget playing with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol gives you a chance to get good open looks. Most of the times Ariza's defender was tasked with doubling Bryant or Gasol, allowing Ariza to shoot wide-open threes throughout the playoffs. Sometimes, players forget that they benefit greatly from their surroundings.
Now, on the Lakers' side, if they let Ariza go, who will start? Are the Lakers really going to start Luke Walton again? Will the Lakers bring in Adam Morrison off the bench? Can you expect to win a championship when your small forwards are Luke Walton and Adam Morrison?
With Ariza gone, a giant hole is left at the three spot. If the Lakers bring back Odom and not Ariza, they won’t be able to get a free agent to fill that void. If they bring back Ariza and not Odom, they still have a capable front court with Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Josh Powell. Granted, that is based on Bynum staying healthy and progressing.
Bringing back both Ariza and Odom is very possible. If they are going to bring back one, it has to be Ariza. If they don't bring back Ariza, they need to let both go and try to reel in a Ron Artest or maybe a Hedo Turkoglu, if that's at all possible.
The bottom line here is without Ariza the Lakers could be left with some big holes come the start of the 2009-2010 season. Without the Lakers, Ariza is not the same player. The two sides need to find a solution before animosity grows.