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Ariza's story one of love and strength

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Ariza's story one of love and strength

For Trevor Ariza, life has always been about new beginnings. About having the strength and courage to move forward without forgetting the past.

Tomorrow in Charlotte, the 6-foot-8, 210-pound forward will begin a new chapter in his career when he plays his first game for the Wizards against the Bobcats.

Now in his ninth NBA season playing for his sixth NBA team, Ariza, 27, is the personification of perseverance, a man who has turned personal tragedy into professional triumph.

Its been more than 16 years since Ariza lost his younger brother, Tajh, in a tragic accident in Caracas, Venezuela. Ariza was 10 years old at the time and his family was visiting his step-father, Kenny McClary, who was playing professional basketball.

Ariza and his mother, Lolita, were attending McClarys game while his two younger brothers, Kenny, 8, and Tajh, 5, were back at their hotel with a babysitter. Ariza said it was just before tip-off when he and his mother were informed that Tajh had fallen from an open window on the 36th floor of the hotel.

My brothers were playing and there was an open window and my other brother Kenny saw him fall, Ariza recalled. It was tough on him. Really, really, really tough for him.

Ariza said it was nearly 30 minutes before he and his mother arrived at the hotel, which was surrounded by emergency vehicles and medical personnel.

The paramedics got there and they said his limbs were still moving but he was gone, Ariza said. Hopefully, he didnt have to endure that pain.

Despite the time that has passed, Ariza said he thinks of his brother every day and carries with him his warm spirit.

It was tough for me, it was real tough, he said. We spent every day together, we slept in the same bed. He was my best friend. Ill always remember how loving and jolly he was. He was a tough kid, a very, very tough kid, but he was very loving. Very caring.

Ariza paid tribute to his brother with a tattoo of praying hands on his right arm, a picture of his face on the left side of his chest and the following etchings on his left forearm:

Blood is thicker than water.I am my brothers keeper.Rest in peace, Tajh. I miss you.
Ariza said he remembers how difficult it was for his mother in the weeks and months that followed his brothers death, but he also remembers the strength she gave him and Kenny.

You dont recover from it, he said. You just try to cope. It was tough on her. Any time you lose one of your children its not something you can imagine Youre not supposed to outlive your kids.

Born in Miami, Ariza moved to Los Angeles and continued to pursue his dream of playing big-time basketball. He attended Westchester High School, which produced NBA players Bobby Brown, Amir Johnson and Gabe Pruitt, and led his team to two California State titles.

Ariza went on to play at UCLA and after being named to the All-Pac-10 team as a freshman he decided to enter the NBA draft, where he was taken in the second round 43rd overall by the New York Knicks.

He spent parts of two seasons in New York and parts of three seasons in Orlando before returning to L.A. as a member of the Lakers. Ariza won an NBA title with the Lakers in 2009, starting all 23 playoff games and averaging 11.3 points per game.

Ariza parlayed that performance into a five-year, 33 million contract with the Houston Rockets, but after averaging a career-high 14.9 points, he was dealt to the New Orleans Hornets.

Ariza spent two seasons in New Orleans, averaging just under 11 points, before he was traded to the Wizards along with Ekema Okafor on June 20 in exchange for Rashard Lewis and a second-round pick.

Less than a week into training camp Wizards coach Randy Wittman said hes already seeing the impact Ariza and Okafor can have on the teams younger players.

Theyve brought us really a kind of stability defensively with their experience, he said. Theyre probably our two best communicators right now. Thats another thing that becomes contagious -- our talking on defense, communication out on the floor with one another. Your big men are usually the back line of your defense, they have to be able to talk to the people out in front of them and thats really stood out.

Off the court, Ariza said hes never been happier. His wife, Bree, recently gave birth to the couples third child, a baby girl named Taylor. They also have a 4-year-old son, Tajh, named after Arizas brother, and a 1-year-old son, Tristan.

Its a great feeling being a father, a wonderful feeling, Ariza said. Youve got to be protective and make sure they have everything they need and I think Im great at that. I love being a father.

Now living with his family in Arlington, Ariza said he feels very welcome as a Wizard and is looking forward to starting a new chapter in his career and in his life.

I try to look at every experience as a learning experience, whether it be good or bad, he said.

The only thing I could have gotten out of my brothers death that I can look positively on would be that you never know when youre going to die, so you have to be the best person you can be every day because you never know when its going to be your last.

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Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Aaron Holiday

Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Aaron Holiday

The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...

2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Aaron Holiday

School: UCLA
Position: Point guard
Age: 21 (turns 22 in Sept.)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 187
Wingspan: 6-8
Max vertical: 33

2017/18 stats: 20.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.2 bpg, 46.1 FG%, 42.9 3PT% (2.7 3PT/6.2 3PA), 82.8 FT%
Player comparison: Darren Collison
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 19th, NBADraft.net 24th, Bleacher Report 23rd, Sports Illustrated 23rd

5 things to know:

*Holiday played big minutes in all three seasons for the Bruins. As a junior, he broke out as an elite scorer, averaging 20.3 points while also dishing 5.8 assists per game. Holiday scored in a variety of ways, including at the free throw line where he averaged 5.8 attempts per game and knocked them down at 82.8 percent.

*He is a terrific three-point shooter, one of the best in this draft class based on his college numbers. He hit 42.9 percent of his shots and on 6.2 attempts per game. Holiday shot 42.2 percent from long range in his three-year college career and never shot below 41 percent in a season. He had some games where teams just couldn't stop him from long range. He made four threes or more in 13 college games. Twice he went 5-for-5 and he once made six threes against USC.

*Though he has the skillset to play off the ball as a shooting guard, his size will limit him at the NBA level. Holiday is just under 6-foot-1 in shoes and doesn't have the vertical leap to make up for it. He does, however, have a plus wingspan. At this point, Holiday seems to be solely a point guard, though as long as he's good at the position there is nothing wrong with that.

*Holiday worked out for the Wizards at Capital One Arena. He was part of their first week of predraft workouts and by all accounts had an impressive visit. He hit a lot of shots and fared well in the interview process.

*Holiday has two brothers currently in the NBA. Jrue is a former All-Star who starts at point guard for the New Orleans Pelicans. Justin is a shooting guard for the Chicago Bulls. His sister-in-law, Lauren, is a former member of the U.S. women's national soccer team.

Fit with Wizards: The Wizards already have a point guard in John Wall, so Holiday would have no long-term path to starting. That said, he would shore up a need the Wizards have been trying to address for years.

Backup point guard has been a real void for the Wizards for most of Wall's tenure. This past season they tried out all sorts of options between Tomas Satoransky, Tim Frazier, Ramon Sessions and Ty Lawson. Though Satoransky remains on the roster, the Wizards don't appear content with their depth at the position.

Holiday's ability to hit threes is very attractive to the Wizards who could conceivably play him off-the-ball alongside Wall, or even Satoransky. Given Wall (6-4) and Satoransky (6-7) are taller than most point guards, they could theoretically guard shooting guards on the other end.

Holiday would add smarts and shooting to the Wizards' bench in the short-term. In the long-term, he could help lengthen Wall's career by taking some of his workload away and also give the Wizards more options once Wall enters his 30s.

Best highlight video:

More draft prospect profiles:

Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State

Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan

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Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Moritz Wagner

Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Moritz Wagner

The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...

2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Moritz Wagner

School: Michigan
Position: Power forward/center
Age: 21
Height: 7-0
Weight: 241
Wingspan: 7-0
Max vertical: 34

2017/18 stats: 14.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 0.8 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 52.8 FG%, 39.4 3PT% (1.6 3PT/4.1 3PA), 69.4 FT%
Player comparison: Mehmet Okur
Projections: NBADraft.net 33rd, Bleacher Report 29th, Sports Illustrated 40th

5 things to know:

*Wagner is one of the best shooting big men in this class. He measured in at just about 7-feet at the NBA Combine, yet he shot nearly 40 percent from three this past year in college on 4.1 attempts per game. He projects to be a stretch-4 or stretch-5 at the next level and those guys are increasingly valuable in today's NBA.

*He had a decorated college career at Michigan as the best player on the 2017-18 team that reached the NCAA Tournament final game. They lost to Villanova, but Wagner was a driving force of one of the best years in school history. He averaged 15.0 points per game while shooting 38.5 percent from three in their six tournament games. That earned him All-Tournament honors.

*Wagner is a capable rebounder, though not a dominant force on the glass. He averaged 7.1 boards as a junior and 4.2 as a sophomore, his first year with extended minutes for the Wolverines. It doesn't seem like Wagner will be an elite rebounder at the next level, at least early on. He has the size and mobility to get boards, but will need to develop other skills to average double-digit rebounds.

*His weaknesses would include rim protection, free throw shooting and passing. Despite his size, Wagner only averaged a half-block per game this season. Though he can knock down threes, he only made 69.4 percent of his free throws. And despite being a big part of Michigan's offense, he averaged less than one assist per game. Assists aren't a major category for big men, but that is remarkably low. Marcin Gortat, for instance, averaged 1.8 assists per game in the 2017-18 season. Big men can make a significant impact with their passing if they commit to the craft and Wagner isn't exactly Nikola Jokic when it comes to setting up his teammates.

*Wagner is originally from Berlin, Germany and idolized Dirk Nowitzki growing up. It's easy to see in watching Wagner play how he has modeled parts of his game after the Mavs legend. They are of similar size and Wagner can stretch the floor with a smooth outside jumper.

Fit with Wizards: The Wizards like Wagner a lot. He impressed in his workout at Capital One Arena and would give the Wizards several things that they don't currently have.

Wagner is a mobile big man who can run the floor fairly well and has good footwork moving without the ball on the offensive end. Though he doesn't have a huge vertical leap, he can get up there and finish with power at the rim.

Most importantly, Wagner can stretch the floor and the Wizards do not have a player his size who can do that consistently. If he played center, the Wizards could roll out lineups of five players that can hit threes.

More specifically, Wagner could add a pick-and-pop element that the Wizards haven't really had in John Wall's tenure. He has had pick-and-roll partners, but no one has been able to set a screen and then reliably step out to knock down threes.

It would be a brand new dimension and it could make Wall even more dangerous, not to mention the shooters they have in Bradley Beal and Otto Porter who would then have more space to operate off the ball.

The only problem in terms of fit for Wagner and the Wizards is that he is likely to fall somewhere in between their two draft picks. They pick 15th and 44th and he is expected to go late first round or early second round.

Best highlight video:

More draft prospect profiles:

Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State

Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!