Coincidence? Maybe. But Ariza couldn’t help but think about how he could’ve assisted his teammates as he watched Kyrie Irving explode for 41 points to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 103-96 overtime victory.
“It [stinks] to sit down. Being hurt” stinks, Ariza said. “Whatever the case may be. See your teammates struggle and you can’t do nothing about it. It’s just a hard feeling. But [Irving] is a good player though. He’s a real good player.”
Ariza won’t be available when the Wizards host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday at Verizon Center and he doesn’t know how long he’ll be sidelined. But he was relieved to learn that the injury he sustained last week in San Antonio wasn’t as serious as he feared.
“I’m glad it’s not going to keep me out for a long, long period of time, but it is something that if you don’t take care of it, it could get worse,” Ariza said. “The plan now is to take care of it, try to get back into the groove of things, try to stay in tune with what we’re doing, because it’s not going to take that long, hopefully.”
Ariza missed 17 games with a strained left calf last season and eventually lost his starting job to Martell Webster. He reluctantly accepted a reserve role but returned to regain his spot this season. In the first seven games this season, Ariza averaged 16.4 points on 44.1 percent shooting and led the team with nearly three three-pointers per game.
Now that he has been sidelined with another leg injury, Ariza plans to help the only way he can.
“When you’re not playing, the only thing you can do is encourage your teammates, just try to give them as much support as you possibly can,” Ariza said. “If you see something that they might not see on the court, just give them a heads up on that, but again, they were playing out there, you’re sitting on the sideline watching, so all you can do is support.”
The Wizards have only improved by two games in the win column from last season, but Ariza believes that the team can turn things around. Only four teams in the Eastern Conference have a winning record and Ariza said it’s too early to start thinking that the season is over.
“The East has been like that for a while. No disrespect to anybody. But that’s just the way it is. We’ve still got a chance,” Ariza said. “We know we’re not that far off. Just keep our spirits high. We have a few veterans on this team. We’ve been through pretty much everything you can go through in the NBA. This is nothing that none of us haven’t seen before. So as long as we keep each other positive, upbeat, we’ll be all right.”
Al Harrington was not at practice on Monday as he visited with a doctor to set out a plan for the injured right knee that has cost him the past two games.