Trevor Ariza is dealing with his own season-ending injury, but his sore left knee won’t require any surgery and he can still walk around without much discomfort.
Kobe Bryant, Ariza’s former teammate with the Los Angeles Lakers, isn’t as fortunate after sustaining a torn Achilles’ tendon against the New Orleans Hornets on Friday that will sideline him for the next six to nine months. Ariza watched Bryant go down and was disappointed like many around the league.
“It’s not good for nobody, to be honest with you,” said Ariza, who won a championship with Bryant in 2009. “Even though he’s on another team, I got to spend some time with him, got to know him real well. Knowing how intense he is with basketball, knowing how this is like, something he puts all his time into, I know it hurts.”
Bryant has saved some of his best basketball for the final month of the regular season in an effort to lead the Lakers into the playoffs during a season that has come well short of expectations. The Lakers have had a tumultuous season that has including the firing of Mike Brown after five games, the death of owner Jerry Buss and the poor chemistry between Bryant and Dwight Howard. They entered Sunday night with one-game lead over Utah for the eighth spot with two games left to play, but will have to move on without their five-time NBA champion and unquestioned leader since Shaquille O’Neal was traded nine years ago.
“It’s devastating to the league, too,” Ariza said. “A lot of people looked up to him coming up and still. For him to go down is kind of bad.”
Ariza said he expects Bryant to focus on his recovery “just as hard as he works on his game on the court. He’s relentless in that sense. He’s one of a kind when it comes to this.”
Ariza has missed the past three games with a left knee injury that flared up in Boston and has been unbearable ever since. Coach Randy Wittman has already ruled out Ariza and starting small forward Martell Webster (abdominal strain) for the rest of the season.
“When I go into my shooting motion and when I run. It doesn’t feel good,” Ariza said. “It’s not well enough for me to go out and give the effort that I’d like to give.”
In 56 games this season, Ariza averaged 9.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and a team-best 1.3 steals. His production increased after the all-star break, as he averaged 11.7 points and shot 41.5 percent from beyond the three-point line.
Ariza had his best performance of the season against Bryant and the Lakers, as he celebrated the birthday of his son, Tajh, by scoring 25 points and making a career-high seven three-pointers in a 103-100 road win. Though disappointed that his season as come to an end, Ariza said he would remember the stretch between Jan. 7 and April 6, when the Wizards went 25-19 and upset the likes of Oklahoma City, Denver, New York, Brooklyn, the Los Angeles Clippers and Chicago.
“It showed what we can do when we were healthy,” Ariza said. “What we did in the second half. We got all of our pieces here, it was fun. That’s fun basketball. The first part of the year, it wasn’t fun at all, for nobody. It was frustrating for everybody, but that’s the hand we was dealt, so we just have to do what we had to until everybody got healthy.”
Ariza is also relieved that the knee injury isn’t too serious. “Just rest and rehab,” Ariza said, when asked what he will need to recover.