Trevor Ariza Enjoying Summer of Trevor
Can you blame him? Ariza turned 24 years old on Tuesday, and on Wednesday he'll become a free agent. A sought-after free agent, mind you. A sought-after free agent poised to get a big raise.
Just two-plus weeks removed from winning an NBA championship with the L.A. Lakers, Ariza will now field offers from a variety of teams -- including the Lakers, Detroit, Portland and likely several more.
That's the position Ariza put himself in with a solid 2008-09 regular season and even better postseason. David Lee, Ariza's agent, indicated recently there will be no home-team discount for the Lakers.
"You have to be open to anything," Ariza said six hours before free agency was set to begin. "Basketball has been a part of my life since I was a little kid. I love the game. At the same time, it's a business. I love my teammates and I love the coaching staff. But at the same time, I have to do what's best for my family at this point."
The Lakers have made it clear they would like to keep Ariza, but that might be easier said than done. The Lakers are already in luxury tax land, and Ariza isn't the only player general manager Mitch Kupchak has on his priority list. Free agent Lamar Odom is there, too.
Ariza made $3.1 million this past season, and it's difficult to envision him earning anything less than the mid-level in 2009-10, which is expected to fall between the $5 million and $6 million range.
"I try to bring a different aspect to my game every year," Ariza said. "Just try to add something different. Like last year, I added the long ball to my game. This year I'm going to work on some mid-range things. Years after, I'm going to be a complete player. Playing on a team with Kobe [Bryant], a person with the drive he has, and how versatile Lamar Odom is and how versatile Pau Gasol is, being on a team like that, it only makes you want to get better and better. I want to be one of the elite players in the NBA when it's all over."
For now, he's not sweating free agency. In fact, just the opposite. It's all good for him.
"When you worry about stuff like that [free agency], instead of it being pleasant, it becomes hard and agonizing. So I'm just trying not to worry about it and whatever happens, happens. This is definitely fun. Today is my birthday. My friends are here, I'm with my family."
And he's likely to get a nice belated birthday present in a few days.
"Maybe in a few hours," Ariza said with a chuckle.