NBA AM: Aldridge Putting It All On The Line

LaMarcus Aldridge has earned respect for playing through a thumb injury despite looming free agency.

Alan Draper profile picture
Sports Editor
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Aldridge Plays Through Hand Injury Despite Looming Free Agency

Portland Trail Blazers All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge always figured to be in the franchise’s long-term plans, but just where team officials had him pegged in those grand designs could be debated. After all, the Blazers at one point were led by former All-Star guard Brandon Roy and had pinned their hopes on former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden becoming the most dominant big man in the game.

While Aldridge was around during the Oden and Roy era, most figured the big man would be the third cog on a Portland team that seemed to have the talent neccessary to contend. But fast forward and Aldridge is the last man standing out of the trio after injuries effectively ended the careers of Oden and Roy.

With the Blazers (36-17) sitting third in the Western Conference standings heading into the All-Star break, Aldridge is the dominant force averaging 23.6 points and 10.3 rebounds. Even more impressive is the fact Aldridge has been playing the past few weeks with a torn ligament in his left thumb. The team initially issued a press release stating their star would miss six-to-eight weeks of action after undergoing surgery, but in a surprise twist Aldridge has put out off the procedure until after the season.

What adds more meaning to Aldridge’s sacrifice and willingness to play through the pain is the fact he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Most guys wouldn’t take that risk.

The act of selflessness Aldridge has displayed over the past few weeks isn’t lost on his teammates.

“What LaMarcus playing through the injury did was show everybody the truth about him,” Blazers guard Wesley Matthews told Basketball Insiders. “One, any doubters that he had have been silenced with that gesture and two, it’s important and he showed us that this [season] is serious to him. We have something special going on here and he realizes that and he’s going to make the most of it and do everything he can to help his team.”

The Blazers are now off for the All-Star break and return to action February 20 on the road versus the Utah Jazz. The team then has three consecutive home games versus the Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder.

Knicks, Stoudemire Buyout Talks Imminent?

As we’ve consistently covered in this space over the years, Father Time is cruel, undefeated and doesn’t discriminate anyone from its wrath. New York Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire, once a dominant All-Star caliber performer, is hobbling down the stretch of an impressive career. The combination of age and injury has reduced Stoudemire from a franchise centerpiece to a productive role player on a team headed straight to the Draft Lottery this spring.

The decline in production no longer makes Stoudemire’s $23.4 million hit on the salary cap worthwhile for the rebuilding Knicks. On the flip side, the Knicks’ abysmal place in the standings no longer make them a desirable location for an aging former star looking to pursue an elusive title.

This is the reason preliminary buyout talks have begun, a solution that seemingly would aid both parties in achieving their pursued objectives.

“Obviously playing these 13 years and through the few injuries, Father Time is ticking. So you know that you want to take advantage of good health when you can and try to win a championship when you can,” Stoudemire said according to Peter Botte of the New York Daily News. “But that’s still a conversation I’ve got to have in the near future and I’ll go from there.”

According to Botte’s report, Stoudemire’s agent Happy Walters acknowledged that he has begun conversations with team officials on a possible buyout.

While there weren’t talks of an imminent buyout timeline, there have been rumors of multiple teams being interested in Stoudemire’s services should he hit the open market. Potential suitors include the Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, L.A. Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers among others.

Alan is an experienced writer of online betting and casino guides. He is one of the main editors of Basketballinsiders.

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