Ariza picks up Wizards' defense

Ariza picks up Wizards' defense
April 19, 2013, 1:00 pm
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Trevor Ariza’s ninth NBA season ended 12 days ago because of a sore left knee.

The Wizards (29-53) stumbled down the stretch by losing their last six games of the regular season, but Ariza helped change the culture in his first season with the team.

He was traded along with starting center Emeka Okafor from the New Orleans Pelicans last summer. 

"Those are two of the best defensive players," point guard John Wall said. "Emeka protects the rim and Trevor is probably one of the best on-the-ball defenders (in the NBA). He does a good job. Those guys are veterans and know what it takes to get it done."

Indeed, Ariza is a fit because of coach Randy Wittman's emphasis on defense. He's 6'8" and long-armed with the quickness to defend smaller, quick players on the perimeter.

The Wizards allowed opponents to shoot 44 percent, tied for sixth-best with the Miami Heat (66-16).

In his ninth season, Ariza has a player-option to return to Washington that will pay him $7.7 million for next season. He won't opt out. 

Missing 26 games and starting just 15, Ariza's three-point shooting was a pleasant surprise. It came in handy especially when Bradley Beal went down with leg injuries and missed all but five games after March 3.

Ariza averaged 9.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists. He shot 41.7 percent from the field, including a career-high 36.4 percent from long range.

Wittman, however, used Garrett Temple in the starting lineup with Wall instead of Ariza because he needed a better ball-handler in the backcourt. Ariza, who was a full-time starter in his previous three NBA seasons with the Pelicans and Houston Rockets, came off the bench as a sixth man with Wall's backup, A.J. Price.

“I’m a starter. I’m (going) to let you know that right now,” Ariza said with a smile. 

First, he has to get his knee healthy in the off-season. 

“There were some things about my game I did not like,” Ariza said. “I didn't finish in the paint as well as I wanted to. I didn't think that my explosion was there. … I need to get back to that.”