Newest member of team was a big fan

Times Staff Writer

MILWAUKEE -- Trevor Ariza was sitting in an NBA locker room and wearing a Lakers jersey, right where he hoped he would always end up.

“I think everybody from L.A. was a Lakers fan growing up,” the newest member of the Lakers said. “I think I liked Eddie Jones a lot. I think they had just drafted Kobe [Bryant] and had Shaq [O’Neal] and all those guys.”

He also mentioned being a fan of Derek Fisher way back when, which caught the veteran’s attention as he sat at a nearby locker stall.


“I thought I overheard him say that,” said Fisher, smiling and shaking his head at the quick passage of time.

The Lakers are even younger after acquiring the 22-year-old Ariza on Tuesday from Orlando for Brian Cook and Maurice Evans.

Ariza helped lead L.A. Westchester High to two state championships and then played a year at UCLA before making himself available for the NBA draft. He became the youngest player ever for the New York Knicks and, four seasons later, found himself a member of his hometown team.

“I’m super excited to be back home with my family, to be around a great organization, get a new start, get a chance to start over,” Ariza said.

Ariza averaged 8.9 points and 4.4 rebounds last season, but fell to 3.3 points and 2.2 rebounds this season after dropping on the depth chart behind small forwards Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu.

The Lakers are hoping Ariza can play strong defense at small forward and fill the lanes in transition on offense.

Ariza, who will wear jersey No. 3, passed a physical but did not play Wednesday against Milwaukee because he arrived after the Lakers’ morning shoot-around.

There’s also one other little thing . . .

When asked if he knew the triangle offense, he smiled and shrugged.

“I’m about to sit down and watch everything and try to figure it out,” he said.

By trading two players and picking up only one, the Lakers have 14 players, one below the maximum.

Immediate speculation had the Lakers filling the extra roster spot with unsigned free agent Chris Webber, although a Lakers official quickly downplayed such a scenario unless another post player went down for an extended period of time. (Kwame Brown is out indefinitely because of a sprained left knee.)

Webber, 34, averaged 11.2 points and 7.2 rebounds in 61 games last season for Philadelphia and Detroit.

O’Neal’s stats are down in Miami -- 15.2 points and 6.8 rebounds a game -- although Lakers Coach Phil Jackson doesn’t think it’s time for the 35-year-old to call it quits.

“Somebody else last week was trying to bury Shaq and erect a gravestone over his basketball [career]. I’m not ready to do that yet,” he said. “I think he’s still going to be effective for us this year.”


“I mean, the NBA community.”

Jackson and O’Neal haven’t spoken since their tiff last December, when Jackson picked at O’Neal’s work ethic while with the Lakers. O’Neal responded by calling him “Benedict Arnold,” a reference to Jackson’s ultimately choosing Bryant over O’Neal.

Jackson said he reached out to O’Neal twice over the summer, leaving messages regarding O’Neal’s weight-loss TV show and, of greater seriousness, his pending divorce.

“I thought [the TV show] was a very good gesture on his part with the kids,” Jackson said. “And then obviously, when people have personal difficulties in marital situations, I sent my regards to him in that situation too.”

Lakers special assistant Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was honored at halftime when the Bucks rededicated his retired No. 33 jersey banner as part of the team’s 40th anniversary.