An interesting article on the Ariza situation.
ESPNTheMagazine: That script began to be rewritten at the toll of free agency, 12:01 a.m. on July 1, one minute into the day after Ariza’s birthday. He was still celebrating with family when he received a call from his agent, David Lee. “He said, ‘The Lakers called, and they think you’re worth only the midlevel,’ ” or $5.8 million a year, Ariza recounts. Technically, it wasn’t even an offer. Says Lee of the Lakers GM, “Mitch Kupchak’s exact quote was, ‘We want Trevor on the cheap, and we’re not going to make an offer. Find what the market will bear and come back to us.’ ”
Ariza was bummed. He’d been expecting something in the $7-to-8 million range, but he also knew the Lakers had committed $74 million to eight players, putting them well into luxury tax territory. And free agent Lamar Odom was still unsigned. “I thought, Fine, let’s talk to some teams and see if anybody values me more,” Ariza says. Later that morning, he headed to Vegas to cool out with family while fielding calls from suitors. The Cavs brought it hard. Mike Brown and Shaq phoned, LeBron texted, then met Ariza face-to-face. They eventually put a five-year, $33 million offer on the table.
But it was Rockets GM Daryl Morey who received the coveted dinner meeting that night. Like everyone else, Morey was taken with Ariza’s selflessness, athleticism and offensive uptick, all of which made him a snug fit in Rick Adelman’s free-flowing attack. But in his analysis, Morey, the league’s top number cruncher, discovered something else, too. “We found Trevor’s defensive impact to be at the top of his position,” he says. “He was always our top free agent target, but on his defense alone, he was worth the money we had available for him.” As he and Ariza were leaving dinner, Morey checked his voice mail. Ron Artest was LA-bound.
A few hours later, Ariza agreed to a five-year, $33 million deal with the Rockets, similar to what the Lakers had given to Artest. “We were surprised Trevor was available,” Morey says. “We thought the Lakers would bring him back for sure.” Ariza was pretty sure of that too. “If you’d told me I wasn’t going to be a Laker, I wouldn’t have believed you,” he says. “You’d think they’d want to keep their team together. I mean, we won the championship, and I was a big part of it.”
Kupchak insists he wanted the same thing: “It was our intention to keep the team together — and that included Trevor.” But free agency is a fast-moving target, and decisions need to be made. “Early on, we weren’t able to agree on a deal,” he continues. “If it doesn’t look like things are going the way you want them to, you have to make a quick decision and go in another direction.”