Trevor Ariza Haunts Magic in NBA Finals
He won an NBA Championship. He blossomed as a player. He will become very rich this summer as a free agent.
Life has turned out for the better.
Ariza was part of the celebration inside the locker room of the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday night, soaking up the victory as much or more than anyone. And with good reason.
He had beaten the team that didn't think he was good enough. It was the ultimate payback.
"It's an amazing feeling for a lot of reasons. We won the title. But it was special because the Magic made it to this point, too,'' he said. "To beat them, and to beat them here is the greatest feeling for me.''
Ariza was traded to the Lakers early in the 2007-08 season in exchange for Brian Cook and Maurice Evans, both long gone from the roster. The Magic already had Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis, so they didn't think Ariza would have much of a role. They also didn't think he could shoot well enough, and they wanted shooters at every position surrounding Dwight Howard.
Although he was hurt and played in only 35 games last season, he played in all 82 games this season. He went from a dreadful shooter to a good one, which added to his strengths as a slasher and defender. He also became a starter late in the season for the Lakers, a key to their run through the playoffs.
In the playoffs, he turned into a great shooter, hitting 47 percent (40 of 84) from 3-point range. In the Finals, he hit 41.7 percent (10 of 24) against the Magic. His seven-point burst in a five minute stretch in the second quarter is when the Lakers went on their 16-0 run and took control of the game.
"Trevor stepped up his game,'' said Magic center Dwight Howard. "When he was on our team, he couldn't shoot the ball as well as he can now. Now he's one of the best 3-point shooters. He's slashing, scoring, playing defense, so I think he was probably the main reason, him and Lamar Odom, for the championship.''