On a weekend that so much has gone awry for the Lakers, particularly on the injury front, the team ended Sunday with some good news as Trevor Ariza will make his debut against the Chicago Bulls, David Fizdale announced prior to the game.
A microcosm of the Lakers season is the fact that Fizdale, who is serving as the head coach while with Frank Vogel in health and safety protocols, announced Ariza’s availability roughly 24 hours after the team lost Anthony Davis to an MCL sprain for at least four weeks.
Nonetheless, though, Ariza’s own timeline began at the very start of training camp when he underwent surgery on his ankle. His long, long road to the court for his debut back in the purple and gold finally ends on Sunday. For now, the expectations are limited to him getting on the court and shaking off the rust.
“Honesty, I don’t even want to put any weight on what he can add right now,” Fizdale said. “I’m just happy to see him back on the floor. I think all of us are. He’s been such an intricate part of our film sessions and our practice sessions with his voice. I know it’s been very frustrating for him so I know it’s just going to be great to have him out there competing for us and burning his lungs.”
Ariza’s surprise availability is a big boost to a Lakers team currently in the middle of a COVID outbreak. With Ariza, the team is at 10 active and healthy players, though that number includes two-way players Jay Huff and Chaundee Brown and 10-day signee Isaiah Thomas.
Through his rehab process, the Lakers viewed Ariza as one of the biggest keys to unlocking the team. Without Davis for the foreseeable future, the team will remain locked but Ariza’s impact still will be a valuable one.
“I just think the integral things that he brings to the game over the course of his career is so noted,” Fizdale said. “His ability to still knock down threes, his ability to switch and guard multiple people, he’s one of the best weakside defenders from a standpoint of executing weakside action defensively. And he’s a great communicator. It’s like having a coach on the floor. We’ve all been so excited to get him back on the floor, not just for him but for all of us. Tonight he can just go out there and play. We don’t want him to have any pressure on him. We just want him to break a good sweat and compete.”
With Ariza now back on the court, the only Lakers on the injury report not for health and safety protocols — for now — are Davis and Kendrick Nunn, who is still recovering from a bone bruise in his knee.