LaMarcus Aldridge is without a doubt one of the greatest players in Portland Trail Blazers’ history. Through nine seasons with the Blazers, Aldridge averaged nearly 20 points per-game, made the All-Star Game four times and led the Blazers to the postseason on five different occasions.
Having said all of that, Aldridge is a San Antonio Spur now, having signed with San Antonio in the offseason to better improve his chances of winning a championship. If that’s his motivation, which it certainly appears to be, you can’t really question Aldridge’s decision. However, even though he was the one who decided it was time for a change, you can’t exactly blame Aldridge for still having a hard time fully letting go of Portland and the franchise where he spent his entire career up until now.
Scott Howard-Cooper spoke with Aldridge about the transition in a new piece for NBA.com, in which the former All-NBA player expressed his emotion suiting up in a uniform that wasn’t the Blazers for the first time in nearly a decade.
The night was “(a) little overwhelming because it doesn’t really hit you until you really go put on the jersey and then you go play,” Aldridge said. “I knew I was in San Antonio, but it doesn’t really hit you until you’re on the court trying to figure out how to run an offense again and things like that. But I think the process has been going well so far.”
The Spurs with Aldridge are the co-favorites, alongside the Golden State Warriors, to win the West this season. Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard are viewed as the guys who will bring the franchise into the future after Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili retire, likely after this season.
Although the Spurs will assuredly be there as a factor in the Western Conference playoffs, it certainly may take some time to adjust to having a player like Aldridge in the rotation. Along with the difficulty Aldridge might have mentally with fully making the change in scenery, he also expressed to Howard-Cooper that the on-court transition may take a while to completely click as well.
“I need every game no matter what, whether Tim and those guys are playing or not,” Aldridge said. “I need the game reps, the time out there to just get more comfortable with them. I’m not comfortable yet, so I thought this game was very valuable for me just trying to make that step into being comfortable.
“It’s just different. I’m not saying I’m uncomfortable. I’m just adjusting to the newness, and trying to learn how to play with guys is a process and them learning how to play off me, vice versa. I think it’s just going to be a process.”
No one expects the Spurs to have everything going right away but, in the Western Conference, every game matters. Although Gregg Popovich will assuredly continue to rest his older players, San Antonio got bit last season by not playing for seeding, as they had to play Game Seven of their first round series against the Clippers on the road, and they were not able to overcome Los Angeles partially because of it.
Still, Aldridge will eventually get comfortable both on and off the court with the Spurs and, when he does, you can expect that San Antonio will be right there with a chance at a second championship in three seasons.