Forward Ariza wants to stay with Lakers

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. --- Trevor Ariza said Tuesday he would love to return to the Los Angeles Lakers next season.


The fifth-year forward becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1, along with teammate Lamar Odom, who made $14.1 million this season and turns 30 in November.

The downtrodden economy, however, could play a part in how much other teams are willing to offer free agents this summer.

Ariza earned $3.1 million this season, and he raised his price considerably during the postseason, averaging 11.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists during the Lakers' run to their 15th NBA championship.

One of the lasting impressions Ariza left on Lakers' management is shutting down Orlando's Hedo Turkoglu in the Game 5 clincher Sunday. Ariza turns 24 in late June.

Ariza had his season-ending interview with coach Phil Jackson and general manager Mitch Kupchak on Tuesday.

"I definitely felt a lot of love," Ariza said. "They definitely told me I improved a lot and they're happy with the way that I played and how much I was able to help our team.

"I'd love to come back. Money is important, this is our job here, but I built a bond with my coaches and my teammates. We have a really good team, and I think we'll be good for a long time."

Ariza stressed that the sense of belonging he feels among his teammates is a critical factor in where he plays.

With veterans Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher leading the way, Ariza said, "They made me feel as equally important as they are."

He was acquired by the Lakers in a trade from Orlando in November 2007.

"I didn't really get a chance to play or I was too young or I didn't fit into other people's systems the way they would like me to," he said.

The 6-foot-8 forward left UCLA after one season and was drafted by the New York Knicks with the 43rd overall pick in 2004.

Jackson has yet to confirm whether he'll return after winning his record 10th NBA title, but some of his players believe he'll be back.

"I didn't get the feeling leaving that he wasn't going to be my coach next season," Fisher said.

Luke Walton said the way Jackson spoke led him to believe there won't be a coaching change next season.

"He was saying what he expects for next year," Walton said.


EL SEGUNDO, Calif. --- Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Tuesday defended his decision to stage a victory parade for the Lakers, saying it's important to celebrate even at a time of high unemployment and foreclosures.

He said some of the city's wealthiest power brokers have kicked in $850,000 of nearly $1 million in city costs for today's parade and rally. The Lakers and AEG, which owns Staples Center, are paying for another $1 million in production costs.

"We intend to do everything we can to minimize the cost to the city," the mayor said on the Lakers' practice court. "If we hadn't had a parade, you've have had a whole bevy of other people criticizing."



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