Trevor Ariza made his highly-anticipated regular season debut on Sunday, and though it wasn’t under the circumstances he or Lakers fans would have liked, it was a necessary step in getting the 36-year-old veteran back to being a regular rotation player.
“I’ve been wanting to play,” Ariza said. “I got cleared today to play, and I was able to get out there for a few minutes.”
Ariza said the plan was always for him to return around this point of the season, but given the little practice time he had leading up to Sunday’s game, he wasn’t sure if he’d play. But whether it was a direct result of the six Lakers that are in health and safety protocols or just perfect timing, Ariza played, and he looked good for someone that hadn’t taken the court since May.
But the little that Ariza provided on the court in Sunday’s loss wasn’t important; it was how he felt from a physical standpoint that mattered more than anything. Fortunately, he said he didn’t have any unusual issues.
“Obviously being out for so long, it takes a little bit of time to catch up to the speed of the game,” Ariza said. “But for the most part I felt really good. My wind felt pretty good. Unfortunately we didn’t win, but I felt like we got better today.”
Ariza will surely continue to be a factor while Davis is out, seeing as he’s one of three healthy forwards on the roster, but he has the most potential to make a difference alongside Davis. In a season where the Lakers have missed the two-way players they grew accustomed to having in the two previous seasons, Ariza is capable of making his team more dynamic on both ends of the floor, especially in smaller lineups where Davis plays center.
Should Ariza’s body respond well to the minutes he played Sunday, there’s a good chance he’ll play on Tuesday against the Phoenix Suns. Hopefully by then, the Lakers will have a more complete roster to join him.