Ariza returns to Rockets in leadership role

Ariza returns to Rockets in leadership role
July 18, 2014, 5:00 pm
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(USA Today Sports Images)

Looking for familiarity and a chance to win, Trevor Ariza chose the Houston Rockets. "I settled on Houston for one because I'm familiar with my surroundings," Ariza said during a Friday conference call with the media. "I just felt like the fit here was similar to what I had in Washington."

In Washington over the last two seasons, Ariza was a veteran leader for a team with two young stars. "I had to lead players. I felt like in the first time in my career, I had to actually lead players that - not trying to disrespect anyone - I had to lead players that were better than me," Ariza explained. "Having to do that, it takes a lot of  patience, you have to understand the people that you are playing with and understand what they can do. When you have talented players like Bradley (Beal) and John Wall, you just want to see the best for them. Your team only goes as far as those players take you. You just try to push that and get the most you can out of them while you are on the court with them."

There certainly could be some similarities for Ariza here in Houston. While James Harden and Dwight Howard aren't nearly as young or inexperienced as Beal and Wall, they are clearly the top talents among his new teammates with the Rockets. He's already had a chance to talk with both of them.

"I've talked to a couple of the guys. James (Harden), being a California kid we already had a relationship prior to me being on the team, so we talk frequently. He's most excited about our opportunity to play together. Dwight, of course, we spoke, just on we want to win together. Patrick Beverley was extremely excited, he called me and told me how excited he was that we could possibly be on the floor at the same time. It's just an exciting time, we know that we are going to push each other to be the best we can when we are competing on the court together, competing against other teams."

After leaving Houston after just one season, four seasons ago, Ariza said he has grown a lot and learned a lot about his own game. "I'm more mature, I don't get frustrated as easy as I once did," Ariza said. "I learned patience. I learned my game. I know what I can do, I know what I can't do and I also know that I have room for improvement and growth as well. That's the biggest thing that I've learned.

"The first time I was here, it was like my rookie year," Ariza said. "I never had that ultra-green light to make plays happen and be that main guy on the team. That was actually my first time in those shoes, trying to have that role. I learned that is not an easy role and a lot of work goes into that. I just took my experience from that time and tried to put that all together (the last few years)."

Ariza originally signed a five-year deal with Houston prior to the 2009-10 season, coming off an NBA championship with the Lakers. He set career highs essentially across the board, starting 71 games, despite having started just 52 games in the first five seasons of his career combined. He also scored 1000 points in a season for the first time in his career, with his 1072 points topped only once since, this past season in Washington with 1107 points. But he also set a career low in field goal percentage at 39.4 percent and his free throw percentage of 64.9 percent is the only time he's shot under 70 percent in the last six seasons.

He was a great fit in Washington the last two seasons, providing shooting and defense at the wing position. He was 16th in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage at 40.7 percent.  Ariza had more win shares (8.0), than all but two of the players that shot better than him, Steph Curry (13.4) and Goran Dragic (10.3).

"I know that I can shoot the ball really well. I learned that and built enough confidence, and put in enough work to understand that I can shoot the ball with other players on the court," Ariza said. "I feel like with Patrick putting pressure on the ball at all times, that gives me an opportunity to get out in the passing lances and steal the ball. And 1-on-1 defense, having Dwight back there knowing that he is going to protect the rim allows me to be aggressive on the wings and try to cause a little bit more havoc for those premier wing guys.

"Every time I step on the court, the expectations for myself is to do anything that my team needs me to do," Ariza said. "Whether that is scoring the ball, playing defense, rebounding, the little things, anything. From the team standpoint, (my goal) is to win every time we step on the floor. Or to give my team a chance a chance at winning every time we lace them up."