O.C. Register: Had you seen Trevor Ariza before the first game of his new Lakers life, you would know that he is in no way psyched out by having a starting role.
He was sprawled on the floor in the visiting locker room Wednesday night at Houston’s Toyota Center, a foam exercise roller as a makeshift pillow. He was doing a killer impression of teammate DJ Mbenga, chatting about all the coaches he has gone through in his career and divulging that his great-grandfather was Spanish. (That’s the origin for his surname “Ariza” — but no, he’s not related to Pau Gasol … or Rudy Fernandez.)
Ariza had found out that morning he would become the starting small forward after Coach Phil Jackson agreed with Luke Walton’s suggestion to swap Walton’s and Ariza’s rotation roles. In Ariza’s words, this is how he felt about it: “Not trippin’.”
So before the Lakers’ next game Thursday, it was time to stop and chat with Ariza for clarification on just what it was about the starting gig he didn’t want. What he had to say should quash this Jackson-driven portrayal of Ariza as some frightened bunny who all season would rather go hopping off the court than take part in the opening tip-off — and it explained an awful lot about a team spirit driving the Lakers toward a championship.
“Everybody wants to start,” Ariza said. “I’m not even going to say I didn’t, but I figured if I come off the bench, everybody would be happy.”