Even as LaMarcus Aldridge proceeds to burnish his reputation as an MVP-caliber big sans Kawhi Leonard, the normally tight-lipped San Antonio Spurs forward spoke to VICE Sports’ Michael Pena about the disintegration of his partnership with Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard.
The pair only had three seasons together, but they appeared to building momentum to climb the West as a rival to the upstart Golden State Warriors. Reportedly, Aldridge never felt the love that Brandon Roy, Greg Oden and then Lillard garnered. Aldridge’s placid demeanor hindered his marketing potential and prevented him from receiving the acclaim his game deserved. That envy drove him to San Antonio where he nearly he took issue with taking a backseat to Leonard.
Aldridge blew that iteration of Blazers up when he latched onto the Spurs in free agency and set Portland’s development back a few years.
On a number of occasions, Lillard has shared his perspective on what went wrong with Aldridge on a number of occasions. Aldridge finally delved into how he wishes they’d handled their on-court partnership.
“It’s always tough for me to find that balance where I want to tell [Damian] not to do this or this is better,” Aldridge says. “But I don’t want him to feel like I’m trying to hold him back from being who he wants to be. I do regret not talking to him at times, but also I feel like he was trying to find himself.”
“I would say him and I have learned more about each other since I left that would’ve helped us when I was there, so I’ve learned from that and I’m trying to be better and not worry if I come off a certain way, because I feel like when people know who I am as a person, they know I have no ill will. I’m more reserved, so I didn’t want to come off as trying to stifle his shine. I just got back in the corner and let him do his thing…I feel like if him and I communicated as much then as we do now, then things would’ve been totally different.”
Assigning blame is moot at this juncture in their careers. Aldridge and Lillard have hit their respective strides after three seasons apart. After being disappointed about not being “taken under Aldridges wing,” Lillard has put what he’s learned into action by taking on a more proactive role in mentoring Jusuf Nurkic in a way Aldridge never did. The Western Conference standings are currently a jigsaw puzzle, but if the basketball gods really want to settle this, a first round clash would be cathartic for these two and entertaining for the rest of us.
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