Portland Trail Blazers big man LaMarcus Aldridge is a very good player, a sweet-scoring forward that has made the All-Star team twice and the All-NBA Third Team once. As such, he doesn’t exactly give off the whiff of a Finals-leading franchise player, but he’s certainly the sort of contributor, with a rare and formidable skill set, that you want to hold onto at just about all costs. This is why the Blazers signed him to a five-year, $65 million extension four years ago, but it’s also why LMA has felt like trade bait ever since his first day in the NBA. When he was traded from Chicago to Portland.
New’ish PDX general manager Neil Olshey, entering his second season on the job, has been dealing with both reports of other teams’ interest in Aldridge (duh), and rumors of Aldridge’s supposed lack of interest in finishing out his contract with the Blazers (nothing on record … yet). With LaMarcus giving the same pat speech every time he’s asked about his intentions, there’s nothing new to report. And yet that hasn’t stopped reporters from trying to drag some more quotes out of both parties.
"Oh dear God, would you guys get over it? How many -- asked and answered. Thank you [to Chris Haynes of Comcast], by the way. What else, guys? Show me a media report where LaMarcus Aldridge has said anything other than, 'I hope the team improves, I'm excited about what we did, I want to get better and I want to win.' Then we can have a conversation. Until then, let's move on. OK? Is that possible?
"It's not breaking news, dude. We covered it in July. Guys, let's talk about something, someone has got to have a better question than that."
Well, then. Why do reporters keep asking about Aldridge’s position with the team? Considering LaMarcus’ very public stance, Olshey doesn’t get it. From Blazer’s Edge:
"Why? Why do they? What have they read that has indicated anything other, here's Ben Golliver from Blazersedge, who basically copies and pastes every article that's written about everybody about the Trail Blazers. Which he does and it's great.
"And the entire string that Ben showed, right, the entire string around LaMarcus, other than one, said, 'I want to get better. I want to win. I want to be on a playoff team. I don't want to go through a rebuild.' Right? 'I like what we did this offseason. I haven't given Neil a chance yet. I like what we did. I like the additions. I'm excited about coming back. I never asked for a trade.' Every one of them. So I don't know where you're getting this from? Where? Where are you getting this from? Guys, move on."
I’m just fine with moving on. Especially because Aldridge has never publically kvetched, and also because he’s got two years left on his contract.
That’s not a lot of leverage, considering that it’s the 2013 offseason. And though we don’t mean to shame LMA’s gifts, once again, this isn’t some untouchable top-five player. Teams aren’t going to line up to send an untouchable top-five or even top-ten player Portland’s way for LaMarcus, and yet Aldridge is great enough that Olshey isn’t going to make some step down move in a trade for inferior talent just because LMA might want to move on as an unrestricted free agent in July of 2015. These are fears for the trade deadline time in February of 2014, wherever the Trail Blazers might be by then, and not the summer and early fall of 2013.
LaMarcus Aldridge has worked through two former GMs, a year without an actual GM, and one year with Olshey helping rebuild the franchise. He’s played in three postseasons, never past the first round, and he’s probably spending his prime years on a team full of youngsters. Very good youngsters, including 2012-13 Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard, but no knockout, obvious All-Star to lead things. Aldridge is on the cusp of the All-Star team yearly, only making it twice, and a lack of winning and league-wide recognition could play into this.
These are the reasons he may want out. Publicly, he’s committed to the Blazers and Olshey over and over and over. The conversation should end there.
From these pages, until LaMarcus actually does start to have it out with his team in public, the conversation is ending here.
For evidence of Olshey's good-natured rant, watch the video: