Because both sides have a knack for not showing their rear ends, Wednesday’s pairing between LaMarcus Aldridge’s San Antonio Spurs and his ex-mates from the Portland Trail Blazers, in Portland, won’t receive as much media attention as the dreaded DeAndre Does Dallas affair.
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That doesn’t mean the matchup, featuring a 5-2 Spurs squad against a sprightly 4-4 Trail Blazers team, won’t be any less compelling. In fact, it should be a much more compelling game than the one that will take place in Texas. The contest will allow us to see just how well Portland fans – known for mixing equal amounts intelligence and fervor – have handled the breakup that Aldridge initiated when he chose San Antonio over Portland as a free agent during last summer’s offseason.
Are they gonna boo the guy? Is Aldridge ready? Tom Orsborn at the San Antonio Express-News saw fit to ask LaMarcus:
“I can’t say I haven’t thought about it, but I’m locked in on being the player I was there, here.”
“I love those fans. I love that city. They were great to me, so some people are going to be hurt about the move I made. I understand it, so I’m not going to take it personal. I understand their loyalty to their team. That’s what they are supposed to do.”
Eh, maybe. They’re supposed to root for their team, but taking time out to incessantly boo an opponent is up for debate. Especially when that opponent is their team’s all-time leading rebounder, a big man that led Portland to the playoffs five different times.
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That player, however, did just about sign off on sticking with Portland a month or so before the free agency period started. That quick decision helped the Blazers get a leg up on the rebuilding process, but it still left the team without an All-Star for no compensation, and without the presence of a high end draft pick to reboot with.
That, combined with LMA’s assertion that he wanted to remain a Blazer for life from back in 2014, can’t help but sting Portland fans. There is no way around that. He chose another team over their favorite team.
Expect to hear some boos on Wednesday because, even in a stadium featuring 20,000 people all rooting for the same interest, Blazers fans can’t be expected to act as a monolith. Just as it was with the idiot Cavs fans that stormed the court to beg LeBron James’ forgiveness while the other 20,000 were (understandably) booing the crap out of the then-Miami Heat forward, you’re going to get your strays.
Despite any grammar ranking, though, Trail Blazer fans remain a mindful, nuanced lot. That doesn’t take away from their passion and drive, and while we’ve never signed off on any batch of boo-dom, you couldn’t really blame these guys for taking their frustrations out on something, could you?
You don’t even have to dive back into the disappointment of Bill Walton and Sam Bowie’s feet. Just in the last decade the Blazers seemed primed, several times, to become the NBA’s Next Big Thing. Those fans will want to stop reading now, but we need to be reminded that in one 12 month span between 2006 and 2007 the team added what could have been the league’s best center, power forward, and shooting guard to a lineup that would eventually feature Nicolas Batum.
The center, Greg Oden, was done in Portland two and a half years (and 82 games) after being drafted. Brandon Roy, the off guard, made three All-Star teams but knee woes forced him to walk away from the Blazers in 2011. Batum mysteriously fell apart last season prior to being traded to Charlotte, and though the team added a franchise player in Damian Lillard for Billy King’s troubles, Aldridge had just about had enough by last summer.
The Aldridge-era Blazers, though, had just about had enough. The team made the second round in thrilling fashion back in 2014, but last year’s injury-plagued campaign was a downer, and the team was faced with throwing unending gobs of maximum money at a 30-year old free agent just to retain the status quo. This isn’t to say the Blazers (despite what the fans will tell LaMarcus on Wednesday) wouldn’t want to have him back, but this isn’t the same as, say, LeBron James turning the Cavaliers into a 19-win team with one swipe of his free agent pen back in 2010.
We’d say as much even if the Blazers were 1-7, but they’re not. This is one of the league’s most entertaining teams, they’ve unexpectedly split their first eight games, and the assets and cap space and presence of Lillard just about assure that they’ll be right back in the hunt as the years move along.
Portland fans have heard this “in two years, man …”-routine before, though. And they’ll be forced to pay money to watch the guy whose jersey they once paid for, the one they can’t wear anymore, dance around with a Spurs squad that could move on to 6-2 at the home team’s expense.
That’s enough to make anyone toss out a boo or two.
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