This story appears in the September 21 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
Trevor Ariza isn't used to settling down. His rented town house, tucked in a cul-de-sac in Playa Vista, feels cold, the way it would if he'd just moved in. There are no homey touches -- no art, no mementos, no table even. The only evidence to suggest the guy hoops for money sits on the mantel: a photo of Ariza as a member of the Magic, dunking on Emeka Okafor's head. Lakers title trinkets, barely two months old, are on display in the closet, stuffed in a duffel. Out of sight, out of mind.
The sterility of this LA lair belies the warm, welcome feeling he got the chance to bask in during the past year. The quiet 24-year-old is fresh off a breakout season, one in which the catch-me-if-you-can finisher added new dimensions to his game and a ring to his finger. But three weeks after that mission was accomplished, the Lakers reached an agreement with free agent swingman Ron Artest, and one deal became two realities. Ariza, the Lakers' incumbent at that position and also a free agent, would be playing elsewhere next season. What should have been a summerlong coming-out party was suddenly booked with the new-smell realities of moving on (to Houston) and fitting in (with the Rockets). Again.
"Coming to LA, I figured, Why buy? I got one more year on my contract, and the Lakers situation may be temporary," Ariza says.
"I guess I was right."
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