>> Thursday, July 2, 2009
Kobe Bryant was the man, as usual, in the Lakers recent run to an NBA Title, but Trevor Ariza's late season surge was just as instrumental in their championship. Ariza, who had been known as a defensive stopper with limited offensive ability, slowly developed into an assassin during the playoff run and made several key defensive stops throughout the playoffs.
That recent boost in ability has made Ariza a hot commodity on the free agent market, and it doesn't appear that the Lakers are willing to pony up the cash to keep him. The Buss family were ready to offer a mid-level exception, but nothing more and that has sent Ariza out the door.
Ariza recently met with the Houston Rockets and has several other suitors throughout the NBA, including the Cavaliers and Blazers. Ariza could be a replacement for free agent Ron Artest if Houston is his final destination, but expect Cleveland to make a strong run to add the lanky small forward and bolster their already high championship hopes.