Trevor Ariza is getting closer to making his season debut for the Los Angeles Lakers. On Thursday, Ariza — who’s in the process of recovering from ankle surgery — was a non-contact participant at practice, according to head coach Frank Vogel.
“Trevor did, for the first time this season, participate in practice on a non-contact basis, but most of practice was non-contact, so he was in just about everything and obviously a lot of different movements go into that,” Vogel said. “He’s still a ways away, he still has a build-up period before we can expect him to be in the lineup, but definitely a positive step forward.”
The sooner the Lakers get Ariza back, the better off they’ll be. Even if Ariza isn’t much better than what he showed last season with the Miami Heat, having an option outside of LeBron James on the wing opens a lot of things up for Vogel. Right now, the only healthy forward on the roster is Carmelo Anthony.
Ariza’s return will surely only complicate the Lakers’ rotation further, particularly at the guard positions, but if the payoff is smaller, more versatile defensive lineups alongside James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, then Vogel shouldn’t think twice about shortening the rotation.
In the meantime, the Lakers will likely continue to rotate Talen Horton-Tucker and (seldomly) Kent Bazemore on the wing. Though neither of them are conventionally-sized for the small forward position, they at least have the wingspan and defensive chops to keep the opposition honest.
The Lakers will play their next game on Friday against the LA Clippers. Tip-off will be at 7 p.m. on Spectrum SportsNet.