Ariza’s minutes and production have been up and down and he declined to comment when asked recently if the inconsistent playing time has affected his ability to develop a rhythm. He has been consistent on the defensive end, where he is tied for sixth in the NBA with 2.0 steals per game.
“I want to do everything better,” Ariza said recently. “I want to do everything I can to try to get this team a win.”
Lewis had a forgettable tenure in Washington, averaging 9.7 points in just 60 of a possible 112 games as he dealt with problems in both knees. Now a backup in Miami, Lewis admitted that he probably should’ve played fewer games because he was never healthy.
“It was very frustrating and I forced myself to get out there and play, just because of the amount of money I was making,” said Lewis, who made $22 million last season. “I don’t think it was a good idea to go out there and force myself to play. It really hurt me.”
Realizing that he was simply holding a huge chunk of the salary cap, Lewis knew that his time was up once the season ended — but he was surprised about how the Wizards went about ending his tenure. The Wizards had at their disposal the one-time amnesty provision, which allows teams to pay a player their remaining salary without counting it toward the league’s luxury tax. But they had reserved it for Andray Blatche — who will receive $7.1 million from the Wizards this season.
“I thought I would get amnestied. I didn’t know I would get traded,” said Lewis, who later received a buyout from the Hornets before signing with the Heat.
The Wizards are better off not having to pay Arenas, who was the first player waived through the amnesty provision and can’t find employment with another NBA team before the life of his deal expired. But they had other alternatives to utilize the money that they have now committed to Okafor and Ariza.
Veterans Elton Brand and Luis Scola hit the free agent market last summer through the amnesty provision, and cap space was all that was needed to acquire shooters such as Dorell Wright or Kyle Korver through trades.
The Wizards also could’ve invested more time in developing draft picks Chris Singleton, Jan Vesely and Kevin Seraphin, who stand to lose playing time in the presence of the two veterans.
Okafor and Ariza have player options for next season but exercising them is unlikely since they would have to walk away from considerable amounts of money to become free agents. When their contracts expire, the Wizards will have the flexibility to be active during an attractive 2014 free agent period that will include Wall.
For now, Okafor is still trying to stay patient and positive as the duo continues to adjust. “It builds a lot of mental toughness,” Okafor said. “Never smooth and easy all the time. When it’s not, that’s when you find true character. It’ll turn around.”