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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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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Nickeil Walker-Alexander

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Nickeil Walker-Alexander

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Nickeil Walker-Alexander

School: Virginia Tech
Position: Guard
Age: 20 (turns 21 in September)
Height: 6-6
Weight: 204
Wingspan: 6-10
Max vertical: N/A

2018/19 stats: 16.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.9 spg, 0.5 bpg, 47.4 FG% (5.6/11.8), 37.4 3PT% (1.7/4.6), 77.8 FT%

Player comparison: Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, Tomas Satoransky

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 19th, NBADraft.net 14th, Bleacher Report 18th, Sports Illustrated 20th, Ringer 16th

5 things to know:

*Walker-Alexander is a big guard known for his offensive skillset. He can handle the ball, pass and score in a variety of ways. He can play both point guard and shooting guard and affect games with his passing at either spot. 

*He was an excellent three-point shooter in college. As a freshman, he shot 39.2 percent from long range on 4.5 attempts per game. His percentage dipped as a sophomore to 37.4 percent, but that was still impressive given he attempted 4.6 shots per game. 

*Walker-Alexander has a plus wingspan, which he uses to his advantage on defense. He averaged 1.9 steals per game this past season in Blacksburg and his highlight reels are flooded with open court dunks off turnovers. He appears to have strong instincts as a perimeter defender, but could struggle initially at the NBA level against quicker and stronger guards.

*Though he has great size and length for a guard, Walker-Alexander is not considered a premier athlete for the position. He does not have elite quickness or the ability to play consistently above the rim. Because of that, some wonder how high his ceiling will be in the NBA. He may, however, have a high floor given his well-rounded game and basketball IQ.

*Walker-Alexander is from Canada. He has played for the national team as a junior and is part of a new wave of players from the country in the NBA. Walker-Alexander was a high school teammate of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who just enjoyed a strong rookie season with the L.A. Clippers.

Fit with Wizards: The Wizards need help at just about every position, so even a guard can't be ruled out. Walker-Alexander would give them more backcourt depth and that is needed long-term, even after John Wall returns from injury.

If Walker-Alexander can develop into an above average perimeter defender, he could be very useful for the Wizards. They need to improve at stopping dribble penetration and three-point shooters. They could use more players with Walker-Alexander's length and ability to force turnovers. Also, he would help spread the floor with his shooting.

All that said, the Wizards could probably find a player with more upside than Walker-Alexander with the ninth overall pick. He would be more in line with their decision to take Troy Brown Jr. last June.

Like Brown, he is smart and a safe bet to carve out a long NBA career. But could Walker-Alexander become an elite player at his position? He seems like a better option if they trade down into the teens and acquire more picks.

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Are the Wizards waiting too long to choose a new team president?

Are the Wizards waiting too long to choose a new team president?

The Washington Wizards have operated throughout their search for a new team president with patience and for a while it appeared that approach had paid off, as they got close to filling the position over the weekend before Tim Connelly returned to Denver. That patience, though, could be put to the test very soon.

The NBA Combine is already in the books. So, unless they decide to promote interim president Tommy Sheppard, the person who will ultimately be making the call with the ninth overall pick on draft night will have been absent from the face-to-face interviews they conducted in Chicago, IL. It is not ideal, but by waiting this long clearly the Wizards have made peace with that.

They still have some time between now and the Wizards' pre-draft workouts which are not scheduled to begin until the first week of June. The draft is still about a month away and the deadline to extend qualifying offers to their restricted free agents is June 30. 

Whomever leads this team will need to decide on guys like Tomas Satoransky, Thomas Bryant and Bobby Portis. But still, there is time. 

What could throw the biggest wrench into the Wizards' timeline is the impending announcement of All-NBA teams. If Bradley Beal makes All-NBA, which the ballots that have been made public already suggest he has a very good chance to do so, he will be eligible for a supermax contract. 

That would present the Wizards with a complicated situation, one that wouldn't need to be settled overnight but would instantly become the most important story surrounding the team. 

A supermax for Beal is projected to be worth $194 million over four years and would start in the 2021-22 season. With John Wall already signed to a supermax contract, it would be difficult to afford both and still fill out the rest of a competitive roster. Two players would make 70-plus percent of the cap.

If the Wizards determine they can't pay both Beal and Wall long-term, something will have to give. It could lead to a trade.

Deciding on Beal's future, one could argue, may end up being one of the most important calls the Wizards' next team president will have to make in their entire career in Washington. And they would be faced with it as soon as they take the job.

Depending on the timing, the question could even define their introductory press conference. The new president and owner Ted Leonsis would certainly be asked about it.

That is all not to mention how the job could be viewed if Beal makes All-NBA before the position is filled. Anyone who takes the Wizards job will already be doing so with an understanding that it may take time to build a contender given Wall's contract and the fact he is coming off Achilles surgery.

On top of all that, there would be questions about whether the Wizards would offer Beal the contract and, if they offered it, whether he would take it. Beal already raised some doubt about whether he would accept the money, given he has already made plenty in his career and wants to win. 

That standoff could lead to a barrage of trade rumors, which can overshadow just about anything in today's NBA. Just ask the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Beal decision technically would not have to be made for months. If he makes All-NBA, he won't be able to sign the supermax until July 6, when the free agency moratorium ends. They can sign Beal to an extension all the way up until the day before the 2019-20 regular season begins.

But it could become a pressing issue very soon and before the Wizards' next team architect even takes the job.

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