The Los Angeles Lakers (11-11) are as close to full strength as they’ve been all season. Only Trevor Ariza (ankle surgery) and Kendrick Nunn (knee bone bruise) remain out.
Both players were signed to be crucial contributors. Ariza was projected as a starting forward. The Lakers were depending on his defensive prowess and versatility alongside LeBron James, plus his corner three-point shooting.
Despite the 36-year old’s hiatus, Frank Vogel’s expectations for Ariza haven’t waned.
“I don’t think we’re putting a timetable on it, but he’s getting closer,” Vogel said after Lakers practice Monday when asked about Ariza’s status. “We feel like he’s going to be a real key to unlocking this team’s identity. From both the ability to be able to play (Anthony Davis) at the 5 more and have him guard the other team’s best 3/4 and Bron plays off of that. It’s just something we’ve not had, in terms of how this year’s roster was put together. He’s a big piece of it.”
Ariza then spoke to the media for the first time since undergoing ankle surgery early in training camp. He said there’s no “definite” return date and he will await clearance from team doctors. Seven weeks ago, the Lakers said Ariza would be re-evaluated in eight weeks.
Trevor Ariza is doing media after Lakers practice for the first time in a while. He says he's just starting to get back to running and beginning to ramp up his conditioning pic.twitter.com/bQhO5Rb974
— michael corvo (@michaelcorvoNBA) November 29, 2021
Ariza isn’t feeling the pressure of being a savior for the Lakers — who have struggled to find identity, cohesion, and consistency. (He said pressure is a “state of mind” and only exists if you’re unprepared.) He is looking forward to adding a new dynamic to the squad.
“There are so many different things we can do with the full roster,” Ariza said, noting his frustration with not being able to help these Lakers groove on the court. “I bring a completely different element to this team.”
Ariza added that the “little things” that he (and Kendrick Nunn) brings to the table can be a game-changer, especially considering his malleability. “Throughout my career, I’ve been a piece that you can plug in and do a bunch of different things and make a difference. So whenever I get on the court, that’s what I’m looking to do.”
Vogel said he hopes to have a firmer update on Ariza’s timeline next week.