At one point, Trevor Ariza didn't think he'd be back on the court soon for the Wizards. He said he heard "a pop" in his right hamstring when he went down two weeks ago.
Ariza will be back in the starting lineup Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers (CSN, 7 p.m. ET).
Coach Randy Wittman said without hesitation after practice at Verizon Center on Monday that Ariza would get his starting small forward job back. That means Martell Webster, who has played 40 or more minutes in four of the last five games and has averaged 14.8 points per game in that span, will return to a bench that has struggled to produce points. Webster averaged 10 points in his eight games as a reserve.
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"I felt good. Didn't feel any soreness, any tightness or anything," Ariza said in his first practice since the injury Nov. 13 at the San Antonio Spurs. "I just finished out practice and did everything I normally do."
Ariza doesn't believe he is rushing himself back, and serious leg injuries over the weekend to All-Stars such as Derrick Rose, Andre Igoudala and Marc Gasol haven't given him pause. He doesn't want to just start but play starter's minutes.
"It sucks that those guys got hurt. It's never good when people get hurt. But you can never play the game cautious, go out there and think about how to prevent yourself from being injured," said Ariza, who is averaging 14.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists. "You just got to go out there and play. Whatever happens, happens."
A Los Angeles native, Ariza continued to blow off playing his home team, or possibly Kobe Bryant who has yet to play this season because of an Achilles injury. Ariza was a teammate from 2007-09.
"I don't care, again," he said. "If he comes back, cool. If he doesn't, cool. I think he's doing good either way, especially today."
The Lakers extended Bryant's contract Monday for two years at just less than $50 million total.