With his team desperately in need of a win, Wizards forward Trevor Ariza wasn’t hesitating or second-guessing himself in the first quarter against Charlotte. Ariza had an open shot, he took it. An open lane, he drove it. An open teammate, he passed it.
He scored 12 points in the period — a total he hadn’t reached in four of the first five games — and finally appeared comfortable with Coach Randy Wittman’s system and how he could contribute.
“Just being aggressive. Shooting the ball and being aggressive,” said Ariza, who also added two assists and a blocked shot while helping the Wizards build a seven-point lead.
Ariza finished with a season-high 19 points and six rebounds against the Bobcats but was unable to stop the Wizards from starting 0-6 for the second year in a row. They lost in embarrassing fashion, 92-76, and that was all that mattered to Ariza after the game.
“This is not one person leading the team. It’s all of us,” Ariza said. “If we don’t win, it doesn’t matter what one person does and tonight shows you one person cannot win a game by himself.”
The 6-foot-7 Ariza has had an admittedly difficult adjustment in Washington — one that has been exacerbated by the absence of the two players he was brought to complement. But he has been one their best defenders, using his 7-2 wingspan to get steals and deflections.
And after scoring just 11 points in the first three games, Ariza has managed to find his spots offensively in two of his past three games. He scored 15 points on Friday against Milwaukee and he stayed on the attack in Charlotte.
“He played exceptional,” point guard A.J. Price said. “Looking for his shot, taking his shot and making his shot. Probably the only guy who shot the ball well. He played aggressive from the beginning.”
Ariza opened the scoring with a three-pointer, slashed to the basket, blocked a shot by Bobcats rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and found Bradley Beal for a three-pointer. He then helped the Wizards get ahead 24-17 with another three-pointer.
“Trevor was probably our lone bright spot,” Wittman said. “That’s what I got to get everybody on the same page doing.”
On their worst offensive night of the young season, the Wizards didn’t have another player score in double figures, though Trevor Booker, Emeka Okafor and Beal had eight points apiece. And after his quick start, Ariza got cold — like his team — in the final three periods, going 2 of 7 from the field.
The quick ball movement, crisp passing and sharp cuts that helped the Wizards build an early lead were gone before halftime, as the offense got stagnant, sputtered and players settled for one-on-one play.
When asked what happened, Ariza said, “I guess that’s something that we’re used to doing. Got to figure out ways to get used to winning, so, it’s early.
“In the next couple of weeks, we hope to have John Wall and Nene back, get them going and try to help us win,” Ariza said. “Nobody is happy that we’re losing. We’ve just got to find a way to get on the court and get us some wins.”