After reportedly leaving money on the table to leave the Warriors and join the Lakers in free agency for a better chance at a ring, Kent Bazemore’s belief in the organization and roster was already put on full display. That enthusiasm was present as he was reintroduced as a Laker on Monday, but it was one of the players he specifically mentioned that was interesting.
Among the parade of former Lakers to return to Los Angeles this summer, Trevor Ariza was one who caught Bazemore’s eye. One of the original 3-and-D players in the modern era of basketball, Ariza was seen by Bazemore as a player to learn from given his similar playing style.
“Russell Westbrook, LeBron, AD, Melo, Trevor Ariza,” Bazemore said when citing players he’s excited to play with on the Lakers roster, before repeating Ariza’s name for emphasis. “Trevor Ariza is a guy I’m looking forward to learn a lot from being a wing defender. He’s made an outstanding career from being a 3-and-D guy, and I’m looking forward to kind of picking his brain.”
Ariza bounced around from team to team throughout his career, but was always able to start and play at a high level because of his ability to knock down 3-pointers and play strong defense on the wing. He was a key member of the 2017-18 Rockets side that took the Warriors with Kevin Durant to seven games in the Western Conference Finals. Ariza’s strong play eventually led to a few more big paydays before joining the Lakers this summer.
Considering that Ariza is entering year 18, it makes sense that Bazemore would be interested in learning form him. A fellow 3-and-D player, Bazemore is 32 years old, the same age Ariza was on that aforementioned Rockets team, meaning he could still carve out a few more extra years in his career, and potentially even earn one more big payday like Ariza did.
But Ariza isn’t the only teammate he elaborated on his excitement about.
“Being (around) Russ’ energy every day. LeBron, you know how he can see the floor, I’ve always admired that about him,” Bazemore said. “That guy has caused me a lot of mental and physical pain throughout my career. I’m looking forward to kind of being on the same side with him, and trying to get the job done.”
As he alluded to, Bazemore’s history with LeBron is also interesting. After initially leaving the Lakers, Bazemore joined the Hawks and played against James in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2015. The two also squared off in the 2016 playoffs the following year, with James again coming out on top.
But the age of this Lakers roster, which has been oft-discussed, brings with it a wealth of experience. Bazemore certainly won’t be alone in picking the brains of his new teammates this season, as these Lakers look to turn their experience and age into an advantage on the court this year and in the future. More than anything, his eagerness to learn is as encouraging a sign as any that this team will bond and potentially be successful this season. Especially if everyone else shares his enthusiasm.