NBA Injury Report: Los Angeles Lakers Newly-Acquired Veteran Trevor Ariza Out For Two Months
Lakers newly-acquired veteran Trevor Ariza undergoes ankle surgery
The 2021-22 NBA Preseason has just started but the Los Angeles Lakers are already dealing with an injury setback in their ranks. It is being reported by ESPN Staff Writer Dave McMenamin that Trevor Ariza, a veteran combo forward recently acquired by the Lakers in the offseason, will be sitting out a couple of months after undergoing a surgical procedure on his right ankle.
Ariza, who turned 36 years of age last June, played for the Miami Heat last season. He logged 30 games for the Heat, averaging 28.0 minutes per game and tallying a decent stat line of 9.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.6 steals, and 0.7 blocks per contest. However, the veteran combo forward struggled a bit with his shooting percentages as he only produced a 41% overall clip from the field and a 35% clip from the three-point line.
But even though he struggled a bit with his shooting and overall impact on offense, Ariza is still a dependable operator on the defensive end of the floor. He is a 6-foot-8 combo forward who has the versatility to defend all guard and forward positions as he has always possessed a high level of switchability and mobility that allow him to keep up with smaller and quicker players. It is his defensive skill set that has been his trump card throughout his entire career, and that is the main reason why the Lakers front office scooped him up in free agency and signed him up for the upcoming 2021-22 NBA Season.
As per the column written by McMenamin for the ESPN, he pointed out that Ariza has already missed a big part of the Lakers’ training camp due to the ankle injury. The timetable for his return would be after a couple of months, but he is still due for a reevaluation and it remains to be seen if he is indeed returning after eight weeks.
Trevor Ariza will be sidelined about two months after having surgery on his right ankle, the Los Angeles Lakers announced Wednesday. Ariza, one of 11 new players added by the Lakers in the offseason, underwent an arthroscopic debridement procedure Wednesday. He has missed most of training camp because of the ankle. The Lakers said Ariza, 36, will be reevaluated in approximately eight weeks.
Ariza returned to L.A. for a second stint with the franchise after winning a championship alongside Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol in 2009, signing a veterans minimum contract after being recruited by Russell Westbrook to join shortly after Westbrook was traded from Washington. Ariza averaged 9.4 points and 4.8 rebounds for the Miami Heat last season, but only appeared in 30 of their 72 games. L.A. fell to 0-2 in the preseason with a 117-105 loss at the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday. Westbrook and LeBron James did not play in either game.
Ariza, one of the best success stories in the NBA in terms of non-lottery draft picks, was selected 43rd overall during the 2004 NBA Draft. He was selected alongside notable NBA players such as Dwight Howard, Ben Gordon, Shaun Livingston, Devin Harris, Luol Deng, Andre Iguodala, Al Jefferson, Josh Smith, J.R. Smith, Jameer Nelson, Tony Allen, Kevin Martin, Anderson Varejao, Delonte West, and Sasha Vujacic.
Ariza spent his rookie year with the New York Knicks, but he was not able to crack a consistent spot in the rotation of his first team in the NBA. He only started in twelve games in New York, and only logged in 17.3 minutes per contest. After his one year with the Knicks, Ariza then moved to the Orlando Magic the following year. However, he found himself in the same situation as he was in with the Knicks as he only started in seven games for the Magic and only logged in 22.4 minutes per game.
But Ariza continued to stay the course and he then joined the Lakers in the middle of the 2007-08 NBA Season. Ariza then became a consistent fixture in the Lakers’ rotation during the 2008-09 NBA Season as he averaged 8.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.7 steals per game while logging in 24.4 minutes and played a valuable role in the team’s successful title run in 2009.
Now in his second rodeo with the Lakers, there is no doubt that he would still be of great value for the team. It may be that he is already beyond his peak years and has entered the twilight stages of his productive career, but it is also true that he is still one of the most versatile perimeter defenders in the league. As per an article put up by SB Nation’s Silver Screen and Roll, it was being pointed out that Ariza also has a unique ability of effectively guarding the opposing team’s point guard, something that the Lakers head coach Frank Vogel and the rest of the team’s coaching staff could plan out to do to fully utilize Ariza’s unique skill set on the defensive end of the floor.
Although Ariza has long been considered a wing given his 6’8’’ height, he spent more time last season guarding the opposing team’s point guards than any of the other four positions. Specifically, he spent 30% of his time guarding point guards, according to B-Ball Index (power forward was next at 27%). That may have been more of a reflection of the Heat’s roster last season, as Ariza was more needed at the point-of-attack after Avery Bradley missed a considerable amount of time due to injury.
The time Ariza spent guarding point guards is more reflective of what Erik Spoelstra wanted out of Ariza, as opposed to it being reflective of an over-switching defense. Below, you can see Ariza picking up opposing point guards like Damian Lillard, Coby White, and D’Angelo Russell (the top three players Ariza spent the most time guarding last season per NBA.com) to varying degrees of success (and failures). But for all his troubles playing down a couple of positions on defense, Ariza has the highest mark in Defensive Role Versatility on the 2021-22 Lakers, but only the 7th-highest D-LEBRON (an advanced defensive value metric from B- Ball Index). This shows that his versatility may have been stretched too thin on the Heat, as Spoelstra may have asked him to do a little too much through guarding some of these speedy, younger point guards.
But of course, this Lakers squad is more than just one player. This is a team that is spearheaded by three superstars in LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook, while also fielding in a large number of quality veterans such as Ariza, Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, Kent Bazemore, and Wayne Ellington.
On top of all these very credentialed names, the Lakers front office also brought in a couple of young talented players who still have a lot left to prove in their respective NBA careers. One of these young guns is scoring point guard Kendrick Nunn, who played the first two years of his career with the Miami Heat. He is coming off a productive performance last season as he put up an all-around stat line of 14.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 0.9 steals per contest. Moreover, he also produced a very efficient set of shooting percentages that include an excellent 48% overall clip from the field and an outstanding 38% clip from beyond the arc. Nunn is a deceptively athletic scoring guard who can put up the buckets from outside or inside the paint, while also having the willingness to involve his teammates and dish out the accurate assists.
The Lakers front office also acquired another young prospect in shooting guard Malik Monk. Monk, who just turned 23 years of age last February, was the 11th overall pick during the 2017 NBA Draft. Monk suited up for the Charlotte Hornets in the first four years of his career, but it was last season that he was able to tally the best averages in his young career so far. Monk put up a decent stat line of 11.7 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 0.5 steals per game, while also producing a decent set of shooting percentages that include a 43% overall clip from the field, a tremendous career-best 40% clip from the three-point line, and an 82% clip from the charity stripe. Monk had his early struggles and he was not able to live up to the hype as a lottery pick, but it is obvious that he has a lot of talent and potential in his arsenal.
Like the lefty Nunn, Monk can also create shots for himself and shoot from almost anywhere on the court. His much-improving three-point shot is surely the trump card of his skill set, but he is also showing that he has what it takes to drive to the rim and finish strong at the rim. Monk has scored in double digits in the Lakers’ first two games in the preseason, and recently put up 18 points in the team’s preseason loss to the Phoenix Suns. As per a column written by Jacob Rude for SB Nation’s Silver Screen and Roll, Lakers veteran big man Dwight Howard says that he has always been a big fan of Monk and that he hopes that he will finally have success and a consistent niche this time around with the Lakers.
“We call him ‘The Microwave,’ because once he hits one shot, it’s over with,” Dwight Howard said. “He’s already heating up. So we’re going to make sure we keep his confidence flowing and continues to get better. I love what he brings to the game for this team and I’m happy he’s here.
He’s always been great,” Howard said. “He’s always been amazing. Since I’ve been with him in Charlotte, I’ve always talked to him about just being patient and just waiting. ‘You’re gonna get your time.’ And it seemed like everything just happened at the right time for him. He was in Charlotte, he didn’t really get a lot of opportunities to play, but now he’s on a team where everybody is going to see how talented he is, and I know he’s going to shine. I’ve been a big fan of his since he was young, and I’m happy that we’re teammates again. I’m just looking forward to seeing his success and whatever I can do on the court to make sure he gets those open shots.”
But then again, staying healthy throughout the season and especially in the more important games of the playoffs is one of the most overlooked factors in the success of an NBA championship team year in and year out. It was the exact reason why the Lakers failed to go past the first round of the playoffs last season as both James and Davis suffered major injuries in the regular season, and in turn, the team’s chemistry was not as good and tight as it was when they won the championship in 2020.
James, who has been to the All-Star Game 17 times and has been named as the league’s Most Valuable Player four times, went through a serious injury last year that forced him to only log in 45 games in the regular season. James was still able to put up a stellar and all-around stat line of 25.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 1.1 steals, and 0.7 blocks per contest, but it was also true that his prolonged absence made it impossible for the Lakers to build their chemistry moving forward.
As per a recent column written by Dave McMenamin for the ESPN, James pointed out that to achieve their ultimate goal of winning the Larry O’Brien championship trophy this season, they have to remain healthy and available. That is obvious a very difficult task, especially with this veteran-heavy Lakers roster, but James pointed out that everybody has to protect and step up for one another.
"You're always trying to figure out ways that you can just be available and protect one another and put yourself in the best possible chance where you are available to your teammates, available to what we need to do on the floor," James said Tuesday as the Los Angeles Lakers hosted media day at their practice facility.
The ultimate goal is to obviously win a championship. And it starts with, obviously, health as the No. 1 thing. We're excited to know that we've given ourselves another opportunity to be available to each other, and that's what it came down to. I'm back to 100 percent, as far as my ankle. I feel great heading into camp," James told ESPN. "I'm super excited to get back on the floor and know the work that I've put in with my body and my game. And I'll translate it to the court."
This veteran-laden Lakers squad will still be spearheaded by head coach Frank Vogel, who steered the team to a championship in his first year with the franchise during the 2019-20 NBA Season. The Lakers’ first assignment in the regular season will be against Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and the Golden State Warriors.