LaMarcus Aldridge left the Portland Trail Blazers in 2015 to join the San Antonio Spurs. He went from being the star in the Pacific northwest to a cog in the Spurs machine, and as it turned out, the All-Star forward had some unhappiness over his new role with the Western Conference juggernaut.
Aldridge and Gregg Popovich told Michael C. Wright of ESPN about the heart-to-hear the pair had this offseason regarding the way Aldridge was used in San Antonio. While Aldridge caught Popovich off-guard, telling Wright that he didn’t think his coach noticed he was unhappy, Popovich said that Aldridge’s gripes were understandable because “when you have nine years under your belt, doing something different, his concerns are totally legitimate.”
Namely, the two discussed Aldridge’s role in San Antoino’s offense. The Spurs are known for their desire to share the ball and trick defenses with constant passing and movement, but to Aldridge, who was used to being the focal point of the offense in Portland, this was a hard thing to accept.
In fact, Aldridge openly admits that he wasn’t going all-out because he felt like he wasn’t receiving the ball as much as he expected.
“It was an afterthought [to get me the ball early]. But it was both [probably my fault and the team’s] because I didn’t feel like I would get it,” Aldridge said. “So I probably didn’t run the floor as hard, or I didn’t seal as good. Then, they didn’t look for me. Then, when we both thought about it, it was too late.
“But this year, knowing that it’s going to be a point of emphasis, I’m going to run harder. I’m going to duck in harder, and they’re going to look for me faster. So it’s going to be better.”
For the Spurs, knowing that Aldridge is going to be locked in this year is probably really reassuring. Plus it would be massive for San Antonio to get the Aldridge that averaged 22.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game during his four All-Star years in Portland, as opposed to the Aldridge that has averaged 17.6 points and 7.9 rebounds a night with the Spurs.
The Western Conference is going to be absolutely brutal this year, and while defenses are keying in on stopping Kawhi Leonard, a guy like Aldridge is going to have to have a big year. Fortunately for the Spurs, it sounds like they’re going to get the best version of Aldridge that they’ve had during his tenure with the team.