How Pat Riley Accidentally Assisted The Spurs’ Free-Agent Pursuit Of LaMarcus Aldridge

Kobe Bryant was “the best part” of the Los Angeles Lakers’ free agency pitch.

Daryl Morey explained specifically how he’d fit in an offense revolving around James Harden and Dwight Howard. Neil Olshey “was great” while trying to convince him to remain with the Portland Trail Blazers. The surprise signing and presence of Tyson Chandler almost persuaded him to sign with the Phoenix Suns. He was endeared by Mark Cuban and company using his high school coach as a recruiter. Masai Ujiri exhibited the energy and urgency that had him believing partnering with the Toronto Raptors could lead to glory.

LaMarcus Aldridge had options in free agency, and all of them were good. But none resonated with him like the San Antonio Spurs, whose early July meeting with the four-time All-Star included no pomp, flash, or even promises of a championship – just basketball discussions with Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, and more.

But not even those talks assured Aldridge that a return to his native Texas and becoming the next key cog in the San Antonio machine would be the latest step in his career. What did? As explained to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski in a must-read story detailing his whirlwind free agency tour, it was a late-stage dinner with Miami Heat honcho Pat Riley that sold Aldridge on joining the Spurs.

“[Riley] told me, ‘You’re a good player, but you can be great,’ ” Aldridge told Yahoo. “I’ve had good seasons on my own, but to win, you’ve got to have other big-time guys with you. When you have other guys who are willing to take that sacrifice with you – maybe you all go from averaging 23-24 points to 18-19 points – and you can all do it together.

“He was saying, ‘Hey, you might have to take a lesser role, but at the end of the day, you want to be known as a champion. Champions have to do different things…’

Basically, the architect of Miami’s now-defunct Big Three convinced the league’s marquee free agent to join one of its best, most well-rounded teams – and that team wasn’t the Heat. After a lunch with Popovich following his meal with Riley one night earlier, Aldridge grew ever comfortable envisioning life in the Alamo City.

“Yeah, the things [Riley] said were definitely more positive for me coming to San Antonio,” Aldridge told Yahoo.

Though he’d eliminated every other suitor from contention, the lure of pairing with Chandler and forming a dominant frontcourt for the Suns still loomed. On July 4th, however, Aldridge awoke to realize his destiny of extending San Antonio’s reign atop the league. He celebrated Independence Day by signing a four-year, $80 million deal with the Spurs mere hours later.

Barely one year after Popovich and company prompted the shocking end of his own franchise’s dynasty, Riley, apparently, kept San Antonio’s long-running one alive by trying his damndest to help the Heat rebound from LeBron James’ departure. Go figure.

(Via Yahoo Sports)

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