A where-are-they-now rundown of top players from the
Derek Fisher continues to slowly fossilize in Oklahoma City.
Metta World Peace was waived by the
OK, so it didn't take much, but Ariza is enjoying what might be the finest season of his career. It also helps that his
"It's not a given, yet," Ariza said Friday before the Wizards' 117-107 victory over the Lakers. "We haven't clinched anything, so we're still working toward that, but the process in doing it so far has been really fun. You get to grind every day with these dudes, you get to see young players get better and better every day and even as veteran players, you get to work on your game and get better too."
Though he's still only 28, Ariza qualifies as one of the old-timers in a starting lineup that also includes
Ariza is averaging a career-high-tying 14.9 points per game while making 42.2% of his three-pointers, which obliterates his previous best mark of 36.4% from last season. He's also averaging a career-best 6.4 rebounds.
"When you get guys around you pushing the ball, opening up things and shooting the ball well from the three," D'Antoni said of Ariza, "then you get into a nice groove and he's in that groove."
Ariza offered another explanation.
"Just playing freely, really," he said. "They're really just going in more and I'm more confident shooting them. I think confidence is the biggest thing."
The last Lakers fans saw of Ariza as one of their own, he was making a pair of game-turning steals against Denver in the 2009 Western Conference finals before going on to score 15 points in the Finals-clinching Game 5 victory over Orlando. He often outshot the
He paraded down Figueroa with his teammates and then he was gone, spurning the Lakers' offer to return by signing a five-year, $33-million contract with Houston. He spent one season with the
Things have worked out for Ariza this season but not so much for his former Lakers teammates. Ariza has noticed from afar.
"With Kobe, it's just been injuries," Ariza said. "Same with Andrew. Pau, whatever his struggles are, I'm sure he knows how to get through it and understands what he needs to do."
Ariza said his old pals know he's there for them even if they don't communicate regularly.
"We don't have to talk every day to know that it's all love or we're all cool or whatever," he said. "It's kind of one of those things where you could be gone for a while but it's just like it was when you see each other. Throughout the season, I focus on what we're doing here. In the summertime, I can worry about all that."
His onetime teammates have given him plenty to fret about.