Trevor Ariza will always be linked to the Lakers because of the title he was instrumental to helping them win during the 2009 NBA playoffs, but it’s not just nostalgia that’s connecting him to the team. Over the last several years since Rob Pelinka — Ariza’s former agent — joined the front office, the Lakers have clearly been trying to bring Ariza home.
In 2018, the Lakers tried to work a three-team trade with the Phoenix Suns that would have involved Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and brought Ariza back to Los Angeles. Talks got substantive enough that executives around the league were saying it was done before eventually falling apart because the Lakers (understandably) would not include any members of their young core.
Ariza still wanted to be a Laker even after that, but Suns owner Robert Sarver reportedly didn’t want to let the deal happen because of how much he got laughed at for the Tyson Chandler buyout that initially gave the Lakers such a boost that season (no, seriously, that was the actual reason). Ariza was eventually dealt to the Washington Wizards, where the Lakers continued to try and solicit a trade for him at the deadline, to no avail.
Ariza is two years older now, but it would seem that time still hasn’t cooled Pelinka’s interest. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Los Angeles may try to bring Ariza home if he’s bought out by the Oklahoma City Thunder:
The Lakers are monitoring Oklahoma City’s Trevor Ariza should he become free, sources say. As of now, both Ariza and George Hill are expected to begin the season on the Thunder roster. There is also interest in Hill’s services around the league.
As of right now, the Lakers don’t have enough room under the hard cap to sign Ariza to even a veteran’s minimum contract, but there are two things that could change that.
- The Lakers and Ariza’s camp could wait things out until closer to the buyout deadline, when Los Angeles will have enough room to sign the prorated veteran’s minimum for their last roster spot.
- The Lakers could cut Quinn Cook and his currently non-guaranteed, camp deal for the second time this offseason, should Ariza become available sooner rather than later.
Ariza may not be what he once was, but he shot 40% from three and put up a positive defensive box plus-minus after landing with the Portland Trail Blazers at the deadline last season, and would at least provide the Lakers one more big body on the wing with proven defensive smarts. Even if he’s not as solid on that end as he used to be, in a more limited role for a Lakers team without much in the way of big wing defenders in the regular season — until LeBron James and Anthony Davis can take on more of that burden if necessary in the playoffs — he could at the bare minimum play a role as a valuable innings eater.
All this is moot until the Thunder actually buy Ariza out, but the Lakers’ interest in him makes sense, and explains why Cook seems to be more of a placeholder signing rather than someone the Lakers are planning to keep all season. We’ll see what happens, but this might be the time the Lakers finally bring Ariza back home and consummate their long-held interest in a reunion.
And hey, if they bring Pau Gasol back at some point too, this will just be a fun nostalgia trip in addition to a title defense.