Blazers big man Meyers Leonard discusses Portland’s offseason, where the team goes from here and much more in this interview with Basketball Insiders.
Aldridge Details His Free Agency Process
One of the questions surrounding the San Antonio Spurs in recent years, outside of how long can Tim Duncan play at an elite level, was how would the team look when the current core group eventually retires? Sure, Kawhi Leonard is an emerging star, but the team also needed another dominant force in the lineup beside him.
Enter All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
The Spurs persuaded Aldridge to depart Portland in free agency this summer, which immediately put the franchise back into title contention coming off of a first-round playoff elimination.
Outside of four-time league MVP LeBron James (who was viewed as a lock to re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers), Aldridge was arguably the best free agent on the market this summer and the veteran forward recently opened up about how teams pursued him and what his free agency process was like.
“Well, the meetings are interesting because it is everybody’s pitch on how they can use you,” Aldridge told The Russillo Show on ESPN Radio earlier this week. “It’s everybody’s view on what you can be for their franchise and for their city. The meetings are interesting because I think everyone sees you a different way. It’s nice to hear different ideas.”
It came as no surprise the rebuilding Los Angeles Lakers were one of the suitors knocking at his door. The Lakers surprised many during the 2015 NBA Draft by selecting promising guard D’Angelo Russell with the No. 2 overall pick despite talented big man Jahlil Okafor still being on the board.
The thought was Los Angeles, with Russell in the fold, would then turn its focus to bringing in a talented big man in free agency with guys like Aldridge, Kevin Love, DeAndre Jordan and Greg Monroe available. Ultimately, the Lakers would secure two meetings with Aldridge, but they were unable to finalize a deal with the All-Star.
With rumors running rampant about the initial meeting going astray, Aldridge decided to clear the air.
“With the Lakers, it wasn’t anything crazy,” Aldridge said. “It was just the [first] meeting didn’t go as well as I wanted it to, so I did another one. People blew it out of proportion about things happening in the meeting. That wasn’t correct. It just didn’t go as good as I wanted it to so I had one more.”
Another storied franchise in the midst of a rebuilding project but in the market for elite talent with the necessary money to spend was the New York Knicks. However, the two parties never met because of different philosophies upfront.
“About the New York Knicks, they told me that they wanted me to play strictly [center],” Aldridge said. “So they didn’t want to meet with me. People was saying it was me, but it was both parties agreeing that we shouldn’t meet.”
Aldridge eventually decided to join San Antonio, who have become known in recent years not only for unselfish basketball but also for extending their players’ physical primes. Aldridge says the Spurs mentioned the possibility of providing him more rest throughout the season to preserve him, but he also feels he’ll still play quality minutes moving forward.
“It was open dialogue,” Aldridge say of his meeting with Spurs officials. “[Gregg Popovich] kind of told me what he was thinking and I kind of said how I felt about it. But I’m going to play as I’ve played in most of my other games.
“It’s not going to be any different than Portland as far as minutes because I just turned 30. So for them, I’m really young. Compared to Tim and Manu [Ginobili], I’m really young. So he’s going to try and manage my minutes, but I’m still going to play a lot.”
Aldridge also put to rest any rumors about friction between him and All-Star guard Damian Lillard leading to his departure.
“We got along very well during the season,” Aldridge said. “I thought we played well off of each other. So, all of that stuff is just rumors that I’ve dealt with before. Me leaving had nothing to do with any of that. It was just me feeling like being close to home, by my family, being able to see them more and just a change of scenery. I had been in Portland for nine years. I had been through a couple of rebuilds, so it was just time to try something new. It wasn’t anything toward Damian or the organization.”
Aldridge, a four-time All-Star, averaged 23.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game last season in 71 appearances with Portland.
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