Wizards reset with deal for Ariza before visit from Lakers

December 16, 2018

WASHINGTON -- In the Washington Wizards' latest attempt to get their season headed in the right direction, they will bring a sense of renewal into their home game Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers.

On a four-game losing streak, after it finally started to look like the Wizards had found some sense of normalcy with a 5-2 stretch, Washington tweaked its roster this weekend with the addition of veteran Trevor Ariza from the Phoenix Suns.

Headed to the desert are forward Kelly Oubre Jr. and guard Austin Rivers, who was acquired this past offseason from the Los Angeles Clippers for big man Marcin Gortat.

Ariza could be available for the Wizards as early as Sunday's game as the team looks to shake up its defense after giving up 120 points per game during its four-game slide.

The Wizards have given up 117.2 points per game this season, second worst in the NBA. The Lakers' aggressive offense could be an issue for the Wizards, even with an above-average defenderlike Ariza.

"We've been having trouble staying in front of the ball (on defense) and a lot of (the Lakers) players are straight-line drives (to the basket)," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said Saturday. "When you have straight-line drives, it's hard on your defense. It puts too much pressure on you because you collapse and get into rotations when you shouldn't have to rotate. You've got to be able to stay in front of the ball."

LeBron James' new team is starting to look more like the cohesive unit the Wizards are striving to become. After the Lakers' rugged 2-5 start, James appears to have his new crew in a flow, although there was the issue of Thursday's 126-111 loss at Houston.

In the perfect example of leading by example, not only did James have a triple-double in a victory at Charlotte on Saturday, but so did teammate Lonzo Ball.

It was the first time two Lakers had a triple-double in the same game since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson in 1982. The last time it happened in the NBA was in 2007 when the New Jersey Nets' Jason Kidd and Vince Carter pulled it off.

Overall, the Lakers are 16-6 since Halloween and have been winning with offense, like two early December victories when they scored at least 120 points, and with defense, like the four opponents they held to 96 points or below since Nov. 23.

Then there was Saturday's 128-100 romp at Charlotte that offered both examples of what the Lakers have been doing best of late.

Helping James has been the continued emergence of Kyle Kuzma, who had scored at least 20 points in six consecutive games before taking a back seat Saturday with 14 points.

"Just keep the same mentality: Defense first," Kuzma said. "I think that's why we've been winning a lot lately, is just that we have improved our defensive efficiencies and rebounding more. And we're hitting more 3s now too."

Improving team defense and hitting more 3-pointers is why the Lakers were one of the teams also intent on acquiring Ariza. Both aspects of the game fit into Ariza's skill set. But the Suns found the Wizards' trade package more enticing.

It probably did not hurt that the Wizards were not in the Suns' division like the Lakers are.

Brandon Ingram (sprained left ankle), Rajon Rondo (hand surgery) and Michael Beasley (personal reasons) did not play in the Lakers' game at Charlotte on Saturday. JaVale McGee did play and scored 19 points despite recent flu-like symptoms.

Otto Porter has been listed as day to day for the Wizards with a knee injury. He will be a game-time decision, according to Brooks, and Dwight Howard is out indefinitely with a back injury.