Trail Blazers assistant coach: 'We didn't publicize it, but we lost LaMarcus Aldridge'

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LaMarcus Aldridge was a busy man on Wednesday, opening up the 2015 NBA free-agent period by meeting with the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns, all of whom were very eager to give the All-Star power forward boatloads of cash to leave the Portland Trail Blazers after nine seasons. Aldridge reportedly left three of the four meetings impressed — sorry, Lakers — but Yahoo Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski suggested the Blazers were still very much in the mix to retain Aldridge's services.

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Evidently, Blazers assistant coach Kim Hughes is a more pessimistic sort.

During an interview with Terre Haute, Ind.-based WTHI-TV on the eve of free agency discussing the development of Blazers big man Meyers Leonard, who had returned to his hometown to host a summer basketball camp for local kids, Hughes — a famously vocal and outspoken sort — talked up an increased role for Leonard due to the loss of Aldridge ... which, of course, hasn't happened yet, but which the veteran coach seemed to think was a fait accompli:

"Well, people don't realize we just went young," Hughes said (around the 2:05 mark of the video clip). "We didn't publicize it, but we lost LaMarcus Aldridge. It hasn't been declared yet, but I'm sure he won't come back. We will go young, and we depend on Meyers to play a lot of minutes. This year, he led the league, in the playoffs, in 3-point shooting. Had a fantastic series against Memphis. He defended Marc Gasol very well in the low block. He really stepped up his game. What we'd like is to have the same type of intent and same type of progression next year, which I fully expect."

LaMarcus Aldridge continues to weigh his options. (Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports)
LaMarcus Aldridge continues to weigh his options. (Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports)

With all due respect to Leonard, who certainly did open eyes last year by increasing his range out to 3-point territory and becoming a bombs-away stretch five with the athleticism to run the floor and crash the boards, the big-ticket item there is Hughes saying the Blazers had "lost LaMarcus Aldridge" and that "I'm sure he won't be back." Seems noteworthy that an assistant coach on the incumbent team's talking in public like one of the most significant and successful players in franchise history is out of the barn with the door closed behind him, even if many have expected that to be the case for some time now (and even if Olshey has denied it up and down).

For what it's worth, Mike Tokito of The Oregonian writes that it's "not believed that Hughes has any role in player-personnel matters, and it is unknown if he has had any direct communication with Aldridge, his agent or general manager Neil Olshey about Aldridge's status." His colleague, Jason Quick, doubled down on that Thursday morning:

Whether this is Hughes telling tales out of school or just reading tea leaves, Aldridge is expected to continue weighing his options Thursday. One local brewery would welcome the opportunity to get him nicely lubricated as he does so, both now and in the future, according to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian:

Breakside Brewery, an award-winning microbrewery in Portland, said on Twitter that it not only would name a beer in Aldridge's honor, but also give the unrestricted free agent "free beer at Breakside for life" if he re-signs with the Blazers.

Breakside has won numerous national and local awards for a variety of its beers, including its flagship American-Style IPA, which earned the prestigious Gold Medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival.

Not to be outdone, the sudslingers in San Antonio are looking to bolster the Spurs' recruitment efforts:

You're up, Phoenix-area craft breweries. Let's see something.

Whichever way Aldridge is leaning — which (probably) has little to do with hops-and-barley-based inducements — his newly maxed out All-Star running buddy made a public plea for him to stick around in Portland:

The Blazers just paid Damian Lillard to be their bridge to the future, but you can scarcely blame the guard for hoping to forestall the youth movement mentioned by Hughes if it means proving the assistant coach wrong and keeping the high-scoring big man around just a little bit longer.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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