LaMarcus Aldridge informs Blazers he will not return
The LaMarcus Aldridge era in Portland is reportedly coming to an end.
Trail Blazers writer Erik Gunderson of The Columbian reported on Thursday afternoon that the four-time All-Star has informed the Blazers that he will not be returning to the team.
The 29-year-old Aldridge, who has played his entire nine-year career in Rip City thus far, is an unrestricted free agent and has been widely rumored to be taking his talents elsewhere for quite some time now. An ESPN report put Aldridge’s chances of bolting Portland at “99.9 percent” and now the departure appears to be a done deal.
Portland’s trade of Nicolas Batum to the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday, a move which opened up close to $4 million in cap space, may be a signal that the team is already bracing itself for the post-Aldridge era. With Wesley Matthews, Arron Afflalo, and Robin Lopez all unrestricted free agents this summer as well, the Blazers could be blowing up their core almost entirely in the coming months. It’s a shocking turn of events after back-to-back 50-win seasons, but expect Neil Olshey to make a run at big-name free agents like DeAndre Jordan, Paul Millsap, and Kevin Love to fill the void that Aldridge is about to create.
As for Aldridge himself, the Los Angeles Lakers are gaining traction as a potential destination for the big man. While the idea of Aldridge in LA is a compelling notion, the Lakers are spreading their forces everywhere right now and linking themselves to every free agent under the sun. Without having a focused plan, it’s difficult to envision them beating out another suitor who’s able to give Aldridge their full attention.
Their biggest competitors for Aldridge’s services are said to be the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs, as the big man was born and raised in Texas and attended college at the University of Texas at Austin. The Mavericks don’t have much long-term certainty outside of Twilight Dirk and Fresh-Off-Knee-Surgery Chandler Parsons and on top of that, the failed Rajon Rondo experiment might be enough to dissuade free agents like Aldridge from committing to Dallas long term. Meanwhile, the Spurs have a lot to offer with their better young core juxtaposed with veteran mentors and a championship-proven culture. If Aldridge values winning above all (which appears to be the case seeing as he is about to leave a situation in Portland that could offer him the most money), then San Antonio is the logical choice.
Though it’s impossible to get a clear picture of what uniform Aldridge will be sporting next season, let’s at least give him credit for being upfront with Portland and revealing his intentions before they expended futile resources on him during the free agency period (a courtesy that a player like, say, LeBron James failed to extend to the Miami Heat last offseason).
Portland, for their part, will continue to move forward in their now Aldridge-less future, beginning with the NBA Draft where they hold the No. 23 overall pick.