When Trevor Ariza came to the Washington Wizards in an offseason trade with Emeka Okafor, he had played 188 games in the previous three seasons, and started all but one of them. He began this season as the Wizards' starting small forward, but since returning Jan. 7 from a strained calf that forced him to sit out a month, Ariza has been backing up Martell Webster, who emerged as a leading offensive option during Ariza's injury.
Over the past month, Ariza has arguably been the Wizards' most valuable reserve, often finding himself on the floor late in games guarding the opponents' best perimeter scorer. But as reported by Craig Stouffer of the Washington Examiner, Ariza doesn't want people to start thinking of him as a bench player.
"I look at myself as a starter," Ariza said, "so I guess we have six starters."
Hey, if it keeps you playing the way you are now, especially with Carmelo Anthony coming to town, then sure, you're the sixth starter, Trev. To be fair, Ariza appears to have made the comment somewhat tongue-in-cheek (watch the entire interview here, courtesy of Monumental Network).
Regardless, head coach Randy Wittman for one is glad that Ariza seems to have embraced his role off the bench.
"He gives us a lot of versatility," Wittman said. "I think he's fallen into a role. He's accepted it, and that's why he's playing at a high level. He's given us such a spark from a defensive standpoint, and the luxury of that being you can play him on so many different guys."
"You don't want to disrupt the flow of the good things that we're doing," Wittman said when asked about managing Ariza's expectations. "I think he realizes that and has accepted that."