According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, Trevor Ariza was frustrated by how superstars seem to get special treatment compared to the rest of the team.
It has now been over three weeks since Trevor Ariza signed a one-year, $15 million deal with the Suns. There were a lot of surprises in free agency this summer, like Tony Parker leaving San Antonio to sign with Charlotte and LeBron James departing Cleveland to join the Lakers.
Ariza may not be a star, but his decision to leave Houston was a shocker for Rockets fans and it definitely hurt the team. Sure, Ariza had a very forgettable Game 7 in the conference finals, but that is just a snapshot of his tenure in Houston.
Over four seasons in Houston, Ariza missed just total 18 games. Ariza was always healthy and he was easily Houston’s most versatile wing players and best 3-point shooters.
On Tuesday, Michael C. Wright joined Zach Lowe’s podcast The Lowe Post to discuss what really happened between Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs. During last season, Lowe did a profile on Ariza and he offered an interesting tidbit that could have contributed to the forward’s departure, (h/t Sean Highkin of the Rockets Wire).
“I did this big profile on Trevor Ariza in the playoffs. And this didn’t make the story, but a lot of people told me that Trevor Ariza is like a basketball purist. He was compared frequently by members of the Rockets to a Gasol brother. So I asked, what does that mean? And they said, one of the things that irritates Trevor in Houston and elsewhere, is that we’re all going out to dinner, and even though it’s a team and it’s a family, there are different rules for superstars than there are for everybody else. Superstars get stuff that we don’t get. And he’s just sort of had to swallow his idyllic vision of what a basketball team should be, even though that kind of stuff [annoys] him.”
During the podcast, Lowe mentioned that Kawhi Leonard had similar feelings. Sure, Kawhi is a superstar, but he didn’t feel like the Spurs treated him like one. Lowe said that during All-Star weekend in 2016, Leonard noticed that the other All-Stars and their loved ones were taken care of in terms of transportation and other luxurious perks.
Conversely, the Spurs don’t provide the same type of special treatment for superstar players and that rubbed Leonard the wrong way. But special treatment doesn’t fit into the ethos of San Antonio’s culture, as Tim Duncan’s career would illustrate.
A similar thing can be said for Trevor Ariza’s situation. Sure, everyone is on the same team, but superstars carry the majority of the freight. A superstar can earn a max contract that takes up around 30 percent of the salary cap. Superstars also fill arenas and boost jersey sales, making their franchises more profitable and relevant.
Not to mention, the NBA is a star driven league. Without a superstar, a team will be like a ship without a captain, it won’t get very far. NBA teams don’t treat the stars and role players exactly the same because they aren’t the same.
The main reason for Ariza’s departure from Houston was likely because Phoenix could offer him more money. This is just a minor grievance that Ariza has with the way some teams operate. But role players shouldn’t be so annoyed that star players get special treatment. It is the culture of the NBA and it is unlikely to change anytime soon.