It’s a new beginning for forward Trevor Ariza and it showed Thursday night.
Ariza got the starting nod in his Trail Blazers debut with Portland hosting the Dallas Mavericks.
In his debut, Ariza got right to work, scoring a season-high 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
Following the game, he gave credit to being back in the starting role after coming off the bench in Sacramento.
“That’s what I’ve been used to,” Ariza said. “So, when I’m back in my natural habitat I just try to play the right way and hopefully things work out.”
But, even with his season-high to go along with seven rebounds, two assists, and two steals on the night, Aria was not pleased because his new team didn’t get the win as Dallas rolled to a 133-125 victory.
“I’m more of a ‘I like to win guy’ rather than how I play. So, it means nothing, because we didn’t win,” Ariza said.
It didn’t take long for Ariza to get a shot that he liked from deep.
Yet, after missing his first three, Ariza hit his next four. The 34-year-old notched 15 points through the first two quarters.
Ariza’s first attempt came at the 9:24 mark of the first quarter, but his 25-foot three-point jumper was long and clanked off the back iron.
Ariza was the Blazers second leading scorer on the night.
And even if he himself wasn’t going to say he was happy with his debut performance, his teammates and coaches were.
“I thought he was terrific. Obviously in the offense, he can make shots, I thought he gave great effort, he had a tough assignment, but I thought he is a welcomed addition. I think it’s pretty obvious he knows how to play and he’s going to help us,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said postgame.
While Damian Lillard, who once again put the team on his back finishing with 47 points, spoke highly of Ariza fitting in nicely.
I thought he played really well. He was flying around, he was active, he made shots, he was aggressive on the offensive end as well. For his first game, I thought he had a pretty good performance. – Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard on Trevor Ariza’s debut
Ariza admitted he had a tough time with the offensive sets, but getting used to the vocabulary of the Blazers plays will take time.
“I felt pretty normal once I got on the court. I was a little confused about what we were doing, but once Coach Stotts talked to me, he told me -- go out and play, my teammates told me -- go out and play, so that’s what I was trying to do,” Ariza said.
“I’m trying to get use to hearing new calls for the same plays everybody else runs. I probably know about five plays right now,” Ariza added.
He may only know a handful of plays at the moment, but Ariza believes in this group despite Portland falling to 19-27 on the season.
“I think this is a talented group that is injured. That’s probably why they brought me in. They have a lot of injuries, but they’re pretty resilient. They’ve been fighting every game, playing hard every night, so hopefully playing hard -- and winning, we’ll figure it out,” Ariza said.
One thing is certain: Ariza and Lillard have mutual respect for one another.
The newest Trail Blazers had nothing but praise for his point guard.
When you’re playing against him it’s like ‘this little dude is hitting everything.’ Playing with him, since it’s my first time getting a chance to be teammates with him on the court it’s like, ‘damn, he’s really hitting everything.’ That’s what he does. When you need a bucket, you’ve got a bunch of them around here.” – Trevor Ariza on Damian Lillard
Carmelo Anthony, who finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds in the losing effort, gave props to his fellow veteran.
“Anytime you get traded to a new team, a new situation, you rely on your skill, your talent, but also, in his case -- his experience, just playing basketball. Playing against Portland for so long, just trying to find his way, his experience got him through. And the way that he played, he played hard and that’s his game, that’s who he is,” Melo said.
Now, hopefully Ariza can turn "liking to win" into actually winning with the Trail Blazers, which is exactly what this team needs.