After averaging a career-high 23.2 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, earning his third-straight All-Star berth and second All-NBA Third Team nod en route to leading the surprising Blazers to their best record in six seasons and their first playoff-series win since 2000, Aldridge remains interested in pursuing a long-term deal to stay in Portland, where he's spent the entirety of his eight-year professional career. But as he told Joe Freeman of the Oregonian, he's not interested in locking down that long-term deal until next summer, because the NBA's collective bargaining agreement creates an environment in which it makes all the sense in the world to wait, and virtually none at all to do it now, despite Portland's reported recent attempts to lock him in:
Aldridge on Tuesday told The Oregonian he has opted to postpone signing a contract extension with the Blazers until next summer, when he can sign for more years and significantly more money.
The three-time All-Star made it clear his decision had nothing to do with his commitment to the franchise or his happiness in Portland. Quite simply, he said, it was a business move.
"I'm happy to stay, happy to be here, happy with the direction the team has gone the last year or two," Aldridge told The Oregonian in a phone interview. "This has no impact on my interest in staying in Portland. I just want to get a five-year deal. I feel like that's the best decision on my part." [...]
"I don't want it to be perceived that I'm not happy or I'm not staying on because I'm not signing a three-year deal," Aldridge said. "It's just financially smarter to wait ... and I'm looking forward to signing the five-year deal when the chance comes."
Credit to Aldridge for being honest about the situation, which really creates no major incentive for him to re-up right now.
The CBA limits extensions on veterans' contracts to a maximum of four years — since Aldridge's existing deal runs through the end of next season, the longest an extension could go would be three additional years, concluding after the 2017-18 season. Factoring in the 7.5 percent annual raises that'd come along with the max deal, the most such a three-year extension could pay him would be about $55.5 million. By electing to stand pat and play out the final year of his deal, Aldridge puts himself in position to be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2015, when the Blazers — holders of Aldridge's Bird rights, allowing them to both go over the cap to re-sign their own free agents and to sign said free agents for one more year than their competitors — the soon-to-be 29-year-old power forward can bank an estimated $108 million through the end of the 2020 season.
Additional security and higher annual salaries covering those final two years, when an older version of Aldridge would likely figure to command less on the open market ... I mean, that's about as close to a no-brainer as it gets, provided you're willing to bet on yourself not to get injured over the course of the upcoming season, which Aldridge clearly is.
While it'd be understandable if Blazers fans preferred to see Aldridge's John Hancock on an extension sooner rather than later — especially considering there could exist some scenarios where the short-term initial route could land LMA a longer long-term payday in the end — it's still heartening to hear, after all the rumblings about disconnects between Aldridge and the Blazers, that Portland's longtime frontcourt centerpiece wants not just to stick around for the long haul, but to carve out a special place in franchise history. More from Freeman:
"I want to be the best Blazer — ever," Aldridge said. "If I stay the rest of my career, I should be able to catch [all-time Blazers scoring leader] Clyde [Drexler] by then. I should be able to leave a mark on a big-time franchise that is going to be seen forever. And I will be able to say I played here my whole career. This city has embraced me and grown with me. I have so much history, it just makes sense to stay." [...]
"I feel like we're going in the right direction," Aldridge said. "I always wanted to win. And now we're doing that. I don't have any reason to jump ship."
And, thanks to the CBA, 108 million reasons to wait until next summer to put his anchor down for good.
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