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NBA : LAKERS FYI : Ariza emotional as he joins inner circle

November 16, 2009|Broderick Turner

There was a video montage from Trevor Ariza's time with the Lakers, during which he helped them win the 2009 NBA championship. It finished with, "Thank You, Trevor."

Then Ariza walked onto the Staples Center court Sunday night with his 19-month-old son Tajh in his arms and was greeted by former teammates Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher, who presented Ariza with his championship ring.

As Bryant and Fisher hugged and rubbed heads with Ariza, the Houston Rockets guard became emotional.

"There's no crying in basketball," Ariza said. "But I almost gave it up a little bit."

After the game, Ariza hugged Jordan Farmar, Fisher, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson and assistant Frank Hamblen.

Ariza didn't have a great game personally, scoring just nine points and missing 10 of his 12 shots, including six of seven three-point attempts. But he did have eight rebounds, four assists, four steals -- one from Bryant -- and two blocked shots, one of Bryant.

And, unlike the teams' first meeting earlier this month in Houston, which the Lakers won in overtime, the Rockets defeated the Lakers, 101-91, making Ariza much happier.

"After winning the championship, this is probably one of the best games to me," said Ariza, who signed a five-year, $33.9 million deal with Houston.

Why?

"Because I got my ring and we won," Ariza said.

Abdul-Jabbar upbeat

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stood before the media Sunday night with a smile on his face, cracking jokes, seemingly in a good mood.

Just last Monday, Abdul-Jabbar announced he had leukemia and described how scared he was when he learned last December that he had the disease.

After coming to grips with it, he said he has taken a positive approach.

"I'm in good spirits because I feel good about my future," Abdul-Jabbar said. "I'm not dealing with a death sentence and that's one thing that was very important for me to communicate with everyone, that this condition can be managed and that it does not have to be a death sentence. Too many people don't understand that.

"When you hear the word leukemia, it's a shock to you. It's scary. It takes away their will to do what they need to do. So I reiterate to everyone, you can manage the situation."

Abdul-Jabbar said that can be done by seeing a healthcare specialist, taking medication and getting one's blood checked on a regular basis.

He expressed gratitude to fans, former teammates and members of the general public who have reached out to him since learning of his health issues.

"People have come up to me everywhere -- in the supermarket, at the airport, when I'm stopped at a red light, people give me signs," Abdul-Jabbar said. "It's incredible."

When asked what he can't do because of the disease, he showed a sense of humor.

"I can't grow any hair back," the bald Abdul-Jabbar said, laughing.

Abdul-Jabbar said he still plans to work for the Lakers, but will not pursue employment with the Memphis Grizzlies, who had shown interest in hiring him. He said he's also producing a documentary.

Abdul-Jabbar said those looking for assistance about leukemia can go to CML Alliance and CML Earth for information on the disease.

He said his spirits remained high after he learned he had the disease because of his work with the Lakers.

"I was glad that I had a job. It was something that was a distraction from maybe thinking about the worst is imminent," Abdul-Jabbar said. "You can give in to that. Having something to do that I felt was constructive, something that I love, the game of basketball, that was a positive."

--

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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