Trevor Ariza chooses Rockets over Wizards

Trevor Ariza chooses Rockets over Wizards
July 12, 2014, 5:45 pm
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LAS VEGAS -- After the best season of his career playing alongside John Wall, Trevor Ariza is leaving the Wizards for the Houston Rockets, confirmed Saturday. 

According to USA TODAY's Sam Amick, the deal is for four years and $32 million.

As they were playing their first summer league game here versus the Atlanta Hawks, word trickled in and it appeared to catch their front office by surprise. President Ernie Grunfeld, senior vice president Tommy Sheppard and director of player development Ed Tapscott are in attendance, as is coach Randy Wittman, who is watching from the stands at Thomas & Mack Center.

Ariza spent two mostly frustrating seasons here after he was acquired in a trade with New Orleans. Ariza averaged 14.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and shot a career-high 40.7% from three-point range last season.

His decision to join the Rockets, whom Ariza played for in 2009 before being traded to New Orleans, puts the Wizards' offseason plans into a tailspin after they re-signed Marcin Gortat on the first day of free agency on July 1. This time, Ariza has a supporting cast of Dwight Howard and James Harden. 

They must find a starting small forward -- unless rising second-year player Otto Porter is deemed ready -- on top of looking for size to fortify the frontcourt. Martell Webster is out for as many as five months after his third back surgery. 

There was a feeling that Ariza, who listened to an almost three-hour pitch that included coach Randy Wittman at a hotel in Marina Del Rey, Calif., could've re-signed in that first week of free agency, but matters changed. Ariza made $7.7 million in the final year of his deal and Porter was drafted No. 3 overall in 2013 as his eventual replacement. 

[RELATED: Confidence suits Otto Porter for summer league]

Ariza scored a career-high 40 points last season and helped the Wizards qualify for the playoffs for the first time in six years. They also advanced to the second round for the first time in nine. 

And it was Ariza, when the Wizards sputtered to a 2-7 start, who called a players-only meeting and put Wall on the spot about his leadership. There were bad feelings and personal issues that were worked out, and having a level-headed vet such as Ariza was key to a positive outcome and assisted Wall in becoming an All-Star for the first time in his four-year career. 

Ariza had dinner with Wall and Bradley Beal this summer, but their lobbying for his return wasn't enough. Of Ariza's 389 made field goals last season, 165 came on assists from Wall (42%). In all, Ariza relied on an assist on 76% of his makes. 

Replacing his offense can be done because he doesn't create his own offense off the dribble. It's on the defensive end where Ariza leaves the biggest void.