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Trevor Ariza's changed his reputation, role since last stint with Wizards

Trevor Ariza's changed his reputation, role since last stint with Wizards

There were times when Trevor Ariza felt compelled to let everyone know how he viewed his role in the NBA.

One such occasion came the day after the Wizards concluded the 2013 season, one in which Ariza mainly served as a reserve. 

“Well, I’m a starter. I’m going to let you know that right now,” said a forceful Ariza at the time. “I’m a team player, but I’m a starter. That’s what kept me going. That’s what kept me focused; knowing that I’m a starting three in this league, and nobody’s going to change that. Or nobody’s going to change that mentality, I should say.”

Others bought in. Ariza hasn’t come off the bench since. He started 474 consecutive games including 61 during the playoffs. That streak began the following season in Washington.

"It was nothing personal, nothing against my teammates," Ariza told a reporter one year later as the 2013-14 campaign concluded with a second-round playoff appearance.  "I thought [the Wizards] were going in a different direction.”

The belief proved prescient. After helping Washington reach the playoffs for the first time in five seasons, Ariza entered free agency in the summer of 2014. With the Wizards’ plotting a Kevin Durant future and near-term fixes, he signed a four-year, $32 million contract with the Houston Rockets. 

Four years later, Washington’s direction had them seeking a reunion. The Wizards officially acquired the 6-foot-8 forward Monday from the Phoenix Suns for Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers.

There’s no confusion over Ariza’s role this time.

The Wizards, 12-18 through 30 games, have struggled in numerous ways. They misfire on 3-pointers to the point coach Scott Brooks recently half-joked he no longer assumed the matter fixable. Opponents comfortably drain deep shots against Washington. Starts are slow. Cohesion lacks. 

Adding Ariza serves to address these matters even if just a short-term fix.

“He’s a great player. He’s a champion,” said Lakers coach Luke Walton, who also played with Ariza during Los Angeles’ 2009 championship season, on Sunday. “He knows what it takes to win. … [Trevor] can guard multiple positions. He knocks down big shots. He makes winning plays.”

Those traits were in plain sight during his first stint in Washington. Ariza’s reputation was different. He played for six teams during his first nine seasons. The journeyman perception included sidecar mention when the Wizards acquired him and Emeka Okafor from New Orleans in 2012. 

Despite Ariza’s productive run in Washington, the Wizards had contingency plans. Ariza lost his starting job that first season in Washington to Martell Webster, who signed a contract extension the following offseason. 

During that summer of 2013, the Wizards also selected Otto Porter third overall in the NBA Draft. Paul Pierce signed almost immediately after Ariza latched on with Houston in 2014.

Drew Gooden, a 14-year NBA veteran, played in Washington during the 2013-14 season when Ariza shot a career-best 40.7 percent on 3-pointers.

“Yeah we missed Trevor, but we added Paul Pierce, a Hall of Famer. He was great for us,” Gooden, now part of NBC Sports Washington’s Wizards broadcast team, said. “[Ariza’s value] wasn’t as noticeable at the time until he started winning in Houston.”

Ariza’s 3-and-D work keyed Houston’s 2018 Western Conference Finals appearance. Analysts note what Ariza bolting this offseason to Phoenix for a one-year, $15 million contract meant to his former team when assessing the Rockets’ struggles this season.

“You saw how he made Houston kind of gel,” Gooden said. 

The league’s evolution toward deep shooters and those capable of defending the arc increased Ariza’s value. Playing two slender forwards together like Ariza and Otto Porter seemed far-fetched in 2014. That’s exactly the Wizards’ plan once Porter returns from his knee injury.

Despite a statistical drop in 26 games with Phoenix (37.9 field goal percentage), the Wizards weren’t alone in coveting Ariza this time. Other teams including the Lakers were reportedly in the mix when Washington swooped in.

“I think all NBA teams look at themselves and think they could be that much better with Trevor Ariza on their team,” Gooden said.

Part of Ariza’s local appeal involves helping former teammates John Wall and Bradley Beal elevate their performances. The Wizards go as their star backcourt goes. Just like most aspects of this frustrating season, their work hasn’t been good enough.

"We needed a change," Beal said of the team broadly. "Hopefully this is the change that sparks some energy out of us, some life out of us, that will get us to play the way we know we're capable of playing."

“It’s always great to add a guy like Trevor back, one of the best veterans and teammates I had,” Wall said. “We know what he brings to the table.”

Leadership is expected from the new oldest player on the roster. Don’t expect demonstrative acts. 

“How hard he works after practice. How he takes care of his body. His leadership will be shown out on the court,” Gooden said. “When younger players see this, it’s going to be a template of an actual true pro.”

Ariza long ago believed his traits meant NBA starter. He never shied away from putting in the work to prove his point.

“I just always had confidence in myself,” Ariza said in 2014. “I always know that I have to work for everything. Nothing is ever going to be given to you period. With that in mind, I just worked hard and told myself that I was going to do everything to be the player that I think I am.”

That’s precisely the approach current Wizards desire. They made their move. The subtleties of Ariza’s game no longer require self-promotion.

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There's an impressive list of names reportedly joining Bradley Beal in bid to buy the New York Mets

There's an impressive list of names reportedly joining Bradley Beal in bid to buy the New York Mets

Apparently, the New York Mets are popular.

In a group that looks more like some sort of ESPY's afterparty guest list, Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal is reportedly joined by names such as Super Bowl LIV champ Travis Kelce, NFL Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher, Tennessee Titans running back DeMarco Murray, former Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas, current Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee, oh, and some people named Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez in a bid to buy the Mets. 

That's quite an eclectic group. 

They've already submitted their initial bid of $1.7 billion, according to the New York Post. Hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen has reportedly made a top bid so far of $2 billion. The report says Mets COO Jeff Wilpon would prefer to sell to the "J-Rod" led group if its offer is close to the best bid at the end of the auction. Both have apparently already put up $300 million of their own money towards the potential purchase.

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According to ESPN, the group is awaiting word from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on what will happen next. 

Really the more pressing question though has to be how they all came together. Who would've thought Mason Plumlee and J-Lo would go into business together. Or Beal and Kelce. 

Either way, it's a story that continues to gain traction, and clearly has the star power to make for an interesting future for the Mets organization should the deal go through.  

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Admiral Schofield dropped a lot of weight during quarantine, hoping it can help in several ways

Admiral Schofield dropped a lot of weight during quarantine, hoping it can help in several ways

The NBA is full of very large people, so many that the outliers are the ones who are of average, everyday person size. The guy who is six feet tall stands out in an NBA locker room sort of like a 7-footer would walking through a crowd at a mall.

Wizards rookie Admiral Schofield, though, stood out in his own way in training camp last September. The guy was absolutely jacked, and his name is also Admiral. What a cool name.

Schofield sort of got known for his build and that led to many pointing out how he came from a family of NFL players. There was even a story about the Ravens being interested in him coming out of college.

After four months in quarantine and out of the limelight, Schofiled has now gone through a fairly significant body transformation. He said he has lost close to 20 pounds, choosing to shed a lot of his muscle with some very specific goals in mind.

First, a look at the before and after. Here is an example of Schofield during the season, looking like he could bench a hospital:

And here is him now, about 20 pounds lighter:

Now, for the reasoning. Schofield, who is now down to around 225 pounds, said it's partly so he can be more versatile.

"I was able to get down to a weight where I'm able to play even more positions for the team, and to just be more active on the floor and go longer with higher energy," he said. "I'm just trying to be an all-star in my role and affect winning."

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If Schofield added some speed and agility, that could be good for him. He entered the league as an undersized forward with an undefined role. Being lighter on his feet could allow him to possibly defend guards. And, if he kept some of his bulk and strength, he could still be effective against taller players. 

Schofield didn't offer many details on how he dropped the weight, but he did get very pointed when talking about how it could help his career. He said getting down to the weight he is currently at was a goal of his dating back to his time at the University of Tennessee.

"It's about being able to go as long as possible. That's what it's about. It's about being able to play for 10 years, being able to play for 12 years. Playing with that weight is not good for your knees, it's not good for your joints," he said.

Schofield has been mentioned by Wizards coaches and executives as someone who could find a new role with Davis Bertans out. It sounds like he could also look like a different player, now with less weight to carry around.

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