Lakers hero Ariza had meteoric rise

BY foxsports • July 9, 2009

Outhouse to penthouse? Skid Row to Easy Street? Hell's ditch to God's celestial shore?

The metaphors fail to convey the impossible distance Trevor Ariza has covered in the last year.

Date: June 17, 2008. Place: End of the Lakers' bench.

In the 2008 NBA playoffs Ariza made a tentative return from a broken foot and averaged 4 1/2 minutes a game for 10 games as the Lakers' title run came up short.

Cut to: July 2009. After his extraordinary playoff performance helped boost the Lakers to the championship, Ariza found himself at the center of the basketball universe.

Who could have guessed that the interest surrounding a 6.9 points-per-game career scorer could have set in motion a chain of events that would land Ron Artest in Los Angeles and end the short, happy stay of Ariza in his hometown.

When free-agent posturing began this week the conventional wisdom was that Ariza wasn't going anywhere. Ariza had won a California state championship as a high schooler in L.A., played one season at UCLA and had now won a title with the Lakers.

Could life get better than being a world champion in Laker-crazy Los Angeles? Blue skies, sunshine, adulation, victory parades. Where could the grass be greener?

Add in the fact that Laker GM Mitch Kupchak had seen something special in Ariza when few else did and watched him blossom into a critical championship component and it seemed like a lock that the sides would work something out.

If either side started out bluffing we'll never know. The Lakers initially refused to go above the $5.6 million mid-level exception. Ariza's reps countered that the offer was so disrespectful they'd go elsewhere (even if that team could not exceed the Lakers' offer).

The Lakers countered with Ron Artest.


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