Is the NBA too friendly?
Trevor Ariza won't admit to to calling a players-only meeting after the Wizards lost seven of their first nine games to start the season -- though he did -- but he is the one that gives them that edginess.
Marcin Gortat told me earlier this week that when it comes to being friendly with the opposition before games, Ariza is the one who sets the tone and discourages it. This is the same Ariza, when asked about if he was hopeful that his former Los Angeles Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant would be healthy enough to play against the Wizards last week, responded: "I don't care."
Ariza is regarded as the Wizards' best man-to-man defender on the perimeter. And usually players who take on his role have more of a no-nonsense attitude. Gortat, who is from Poland, found the NBA culture a bit of a shock. Where he's from, if you even acknowledge the opposition before a game, "you'd get your skull cracked." And it wouldn't be a teammate. It would be a coach.
In the J. Michael Minute, I explore this topic and quite frankly, I've never seen a championship team or team that's consistently in the thick of the postseason -- which is where these Wizards aspire to be -- that has a nice-guy attitude.
A few years ago, when Kurt Rambis was coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, I met with him after a pregame session with his coaching staff. We talked about Kevin Love and, of course, losing for a guy who won so much with the Los Angeles Lakers as a player. At the end I asked Rambis if he ever buried the hatchet with Boston Celtics great Kevin McHale, now coach of the Houston Rockets, for the WWE-style clothesline he dealt him in the 1984 NBA Finals.
Let's just say the word "forgiveness" still wasn't in his vocabulary.
Is Ariza's attitude a good thing for the Wizards?