Los Angeles Lakers forward Trevor Ariza has missed the entire 2021-22 NBA regular season to this point as he recuperates from an offseason ankle surgery. But all that could be changing soon.
The 6'8" forward, an 18-year NBA veteran, has apparently passed another checkpoint en route to his eventual return to action. The team's projected starting power forward is inching towards his first on-court regular season action this year.
Kyle Goon of the Orange County Sports Register revealed this update from Lakers head coach Frank Vogel yesterday:
After playing in his first non-contact practice last week, Ariza has now cleared the subsequent hurdle of participating in his first live practice with contact. Vogel indicated that Ariza is not ready to return to the floor for Los Angeles just yet as he continues to strengthen the ankle.
In Ariza's absence, Vogel has tended to play Anthony Davis at the power forward position and LeBron James at small forward, with a veteran starting center (formerly DeAndre Jordan, now rightfully Dwight Howard) playing just a handful of minutes. A return for Ariza could really help open up the team on both sides of the ball, and enable Vogel to try a long-term starting lineup with Ariza suiting up at the power forward slot and Davis jumping at center, his more natural position.
Ariza was one of the many past-their-prime vets that team president Rob Pelinka opted to sign after trading away the team's depth to add past-his-prime point guard Russell Westbrook and his insane $44.2 million contract this season. Ariza could have more value than most of the other vets, however.
The 36-year-old UCLA alum holds career averages of 10.5 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game, and 2.1 assists per game, while averaging 42.3% shooting from the floor, 35.2% from deep, and 73.2% from the charity stripe. He won a title during his last stint with the Lakers in 2009. And has since proven himself to be a valuable three-and-D role player for the Houston Rockets, New Orleans Hornets (at the time), Washington Wizards, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers and Miami Heat.