Most of the reasons LaMarcus Aldridge signed with the San Antonio Spurs are obvious — the best coach in the NBA, a tradition of winning, a chance to contend for a championship immediately while play alongside at least one future Hall of Famer. But had it not been for an assistant coach on Gregg Popovich’s staff, Aldridge may have made a different decision.
Ime Udoka, a 38-year-old former NBA player who played with Aldridge in Portland when LaMarcus was a rookie, made an incredibly persuasive pitch to the then-free agent. Not only that, but Udoka got on a plane with Aldridge and flew halfway across the country just to deliver it.
In a recent interview with Sam Amick of USA Today Sports, Aldridge explained how Udoka flew with him from Los Angeles to Dallas just so the two could chat on the plane.
“It (the meeting process) was done. I was down to two teams, Phoenix and the Spurs,” Aldridge recalled. “I thought (Udoka) was staying in San Antonio for the summer, so I was like, ‘Hey, I’ve got a jet going to Dallas. You could get a flight from Dallas to San Antonio (to head home).’ So he was like, ‘Cool.’
“So he gets on the jet, and I’m like, ‘We’re leaving. You should buy your flight (to San Antonio from Dallas) on the plane. Go buy your flight.’ He was like, ‘I ain’t buying no flight.’ I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ He’s like, ‘I live here (in Los Angeles) right now. I’m flying just to answer any questions that you have.’ I was like, ‘Man, you’re crazy.’ I said, ‘Get off the plane.’ He said, ‘No, I’m going to answer any question that you have.’ So I’m like, ‘You don’t have to do this. Don’t do this.’ He’s like, ‘Nah, I’m not getting off.’”
Udoka flew with Aldridge and the 30-year-old’s kids and mom, helping to address any concerns Aldridge might have about joining the Spurs.
“Everybody was making this big fuss about how I’m not going to be able to take shots anymore, or be the scorer that I am, and he was just telling me, ‘We need a guy to score down there. Tim (Duncan) is older, and we need a guy to command a double team down there,’” Aldridge added. “So I was like, ‘Maybe I’m not a Spur, because I’ve been averaging 23 (points per game) for the last three to four years, and maybe I don’t fit into y’all’s system of let’s all average 17 (points per game).’ And he was like, ‘No, we’re not trying to change who you are and make you average 16 or 17. We want you to be you, because you’re going to help us be better and vice versa.’ He kind of reaffirmed that they didn’t want to change me, and that who I am is ok.”
That sounds a lot better than the plan the New York Knicks had to try to convince Aldridge to sign with them.
It’s certainly possible that Aldridge would have signed with the Spurs anyway, but Popovich was fortunate to have an assistant with a connection to Aldridge who was willing to help that much during the process.
There are plenty of people who believe that LaMarcus Aldridge had made up his mind about joining the San Antonio Spurs long before he took meetings with other teams. That may have been the case, but it hasn’t made adjusting to a new city any easier for the top prize of the 2015 free agency class.
Aldridge, who spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Portland Trail Blazers, recently told Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News that he has been overwhelmed by his latest career choice.
“I don’t like change,” Aldridge explained. “That’s been a little bit difficult for me, trying to get used to a new city. I got lost like twice yesterday. That’s not fun.
“In the end, it should be great for me. Right now, it’s been tough because everything is so new.”
Aldridge is completely unfamiliar with the area surrounding his new home, which is an unfamiliar feeling in and of itself. He described himself as “mentally drained” after weighing his options earlier this summer and said he has found himself wandering around the streets of San Antonio not knowing what he’s doing.
“I don’t know where to go, I don’t know where anything is,” he said. “It’s like being a rookie all over again.”
Fear not, Spurs fans — Aldridge is spending plenty of time on basketball. The 6-foot-11 forward has studied a ton of film to get a head start on learning Gregg Popovich’s offense, and he is excited about what he sees.
“I see a lot of easy shots,” Aldridge said. “Pop’s really good at misdirection, and the team is so unselfish that the ball moves around.”
Aldridge could have ended up even further from the Portland area had this Eastern Conference team not blown its chance. He may be feeling uncomfortable in a new city, but the potential of the 2015-2016 Spurs roster has to help alleviate that homesick feeling.
H/T Ball Don’t Lie
Carmelo Anthony believes the New York Knicks had a legitimate chance to sign LaMarcus earlier this offseason. And then they blew it.
While working out with Aldridge at Team USA training camp this week, Anthony says Aldridge told him that he ended up not meeting with the Knicks because the team envisioned him playing strictly center. Carmelo was shocked.
“I didn’t know that. When he told me that, I didn’t know that,” Anthony said, per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “I took my headband and threw it across. . . . I honestly didn’t know that,” Anthony said.
Carmelo was supposedly “playful and smiling” while he made the headband comment, but that would seem to indicate that there is some disconnect between him and Phil Jackson. Anthony insists that is not the case.
“I didn’t go to the meetings but I knew everything that was going on,” he said. “Phil (Jackson) went out there and did their job. I tried to do my job on my end, we kept it at that, if it was time to sign somebody. But Phil’s the president. He do what he want to do.
“I think we could have gotten LaMarcus. I believe, the conversations me and him had, it was a big chance that he was going to end up in New York. So I don’t really know where the playing the center position came in. I know from when I was talking to him we had a greater shot of getting him.”
Aldridge was open about the fact that he didn’t agree with New York’s plan for him, though we highly doubt he would have signed with the Knicks over the San Antonio Spurs. A more recent report also indicated that Aldridge was about as pleased with New York’s first-round draft pick as Anthony was.
I highly doubt Aldridge was going to sign with a team that won 17 games last season. He is already 30, after all.
LaMarcus Aldridge may have chosen not to sign with the New York Knicks this offseason for a variety of reasons. But according to a new report, the tipping point may have been the team’s unflinching commitment to play No. 4 overall pick Kristaps Porzingis at Aldridge’s desired power forward position.
In a story by Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News published on Tuesday, Aldridge detailed the process that led him to cross the Knicks off his list of free agent suitors and cancel his scheduled meeting with them.
“They were saying they wanted me to be more of a center to let their guy (Porzingis) develop and I just wasn’t looking to be that,” said Aldridge. “So I was looking to play power forward, and they weren’t really interested.”
The 4-time All-Star continued, “If they’re going to tell me that I have to play center and I don’t want to play center, then of course it’s mutual after that. But before that I was excited to meet with them. I was interested. But they wanted to have their draft pick play and I get it.”
Aldridge also mentioned that he was in contact with Knicks star Carmelo Anthony during the process.
“Melo and I talked a little bit over text and we have mutual friends that passed messages along. I was interested,” Aldridge said. “I talked to other guys to see if they were interested in going there too. I was interested but when they say they want me to play a position that I don’t want to play, I get it.”
That may have been part of the reason why Anthony was so unhappy with the Porzingis selection when it happened. But while the Aldridge revelation looks bad at face value, it’s hard to fault the Knicks for the way they went about this.
The Porzingis pick was the no-brainer choice at the time, especially given Willie Cauley-Stein’s offensive rawness, concerns about Emmanuel Mudiay in the triangle, and Mario Hezonja’s haunting reminders of J.R. Smith.
Aldridge’s desire to play the 4 instead of the 5 was well-known amongst his free agent suitors. But selling Porzingis and his development down the river by either nailing him to the bench or having him play out of position to chase an Aldridge pipe dream would have been a horribly short-sighted decision.
Plus, even if they capitulated to Aldridge’s positional demands, the chance the Knicks would be able to land him would still be remote. The team went 17-65 last season and in ultimately signing with the Spurs, Aldridge proved that winning was his biggest priority.
In the end, it was wise of the Knicks to only pursue Aldridge if he fit into their plans, not the other way around. Now, the 30-year-old Aldridge is poised for title contention in San Antonio and Porzingis is free to thrive with all the minutes he can handle at the 4 in Madison Square (with the occasional help from Melo as a small-ball 4). It looks like this all worked out for the best for everyone.
H/T CBS Sports
The San Antonio Spurs were the frontrunner to sign LaMarcus Aldridge from the start of free agency, and eventually the expected happened. Aldridge still met with other teams, but why did he cancel on the New York Knicks?
New York’s horrendous season last year had nothing to do with it. If that was the reason, it wouldn’t make sense for Aldridge to meet with the Los Angeles Lakers twice. During an appearance on The Russillo Show on ESPN Radio earlier this week, Aldridge said he wasn’t interested in what the Knicks had in mind for him.
“About the New York Knicks, they told me that they wanted me to play strictly [center],” he said, per Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders. “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 is 6-foot-11, but he sees himself as a power forward — not a center. When you stop and think about it, that’s probably why he passed on both the Lakers and the Knicks.
One of the reasons Aldridge didn’t enjoy his first meeting with the Lakers was that he reportedly didn’t mesh well with Kobe Bryant. Kobe said he envisioned Aldridge playing a Pau Gasol-type role, and Gasol is a center. Gasol had some of his best seasons when he played under Phil Jackson in L.A. Jackson is now in charge of basketball operations with the Knicks.
You see where this is going.
The Spurs, on the other hand, seemed to speak Aldridge’s language from the start.
“It’s not going to be any different than Portland as far as minutes because I just turned 30,” Aldridge said of playing in San Antonio. “So for them, I’m really young. Compared to Tim [Duncan] and Manu [Ginobili], I’m really young. So (Gregg Popovich is) going to try and manage my minutes, but I’m still going to play a lot.”
Sounds like a winning formula.
LaMarcus Aldridge made the Spurs among the winners of the NBA’s offseason when he joined them on a four-year deal worth $80 million. The move brought to an end his time with the Blazers, the team he spent the first nine seasons of his career playing for.
While the Spurs were seen as the favorite throughout the process, most of America found out the news of Aldridge’s decision to make it official at the same time. Former teammate Damian Lillard wasn’t in that group. He already knew what the four-time All-Star was going to do.
“We basically exchanged texts about how much admiration we have for each other,” Lillard said via Sporting News. “That change wasn’t about me. I did express that I wanted him to be back. I told him I respected his decision. I respected that he told me before the news broke and I saw it on TV.”
It’s tough to argue with the decision LaMarcus Aldridge made. There were reports he was uncomfortable with the Blazers pushing Lillard as the face of the franchise. However, based on Lillard’s comments, going to San Antonio wasn’t about him. Aldridge is from Texas and being close to family and friends was important to him. And, obviously, San Antonio gives him a great opportunity to compete for a championship.
Portland, on the other hand, will look drastically different this upcoming season, with Lillard the only starter from a year ago remaining. Wes Matthews is now with the Mavericks. Nicolas Batum was traded to the Hornets. Aldridge signed with the Spurs and Robin Lopez is now a member of the Knicks.
Bruce Bowen retired from the NBA after the 2009 season, but he’s still making sacrifices for his old team six years later.
Bowen granted the San Antonio Spurs permission to un-retire his No. 12 jersey so that new free agent acquisition LaMarcus Aldridge could wear it.
“You want LaMarcus to feel part of the family,” Bowen told the San Antonio Express-News. “If I can have a hand in that, shoot, why not? I don’t play anymore.”
Bowen’s jersey was retired three years ago by the organization to honor his outstanding play with the team. A defensive stalwart, Bowen helped the Spurs win three championships and was named first-team All-NBA defense five times.
Rather than be egotistical and throw a fit, he wants the Spurs to welcome Aldridge and continue winning.
“I hope it helps (Aldridge) feel comfortable,” Bowen said. “If he’s comfortable, the sky’s the limit for him here. It’s one less thing he has to worry about.”
Aldridge wore No. 12 in all nine of his NBA seasons in Portland. Though he did not make the number one of his conditions to sign with the team, he’ll probably be happy to continue wearing it. And if a simple phone call was all that was needed to get him his number, then he certainly got off easily — at least compared to this guy.
Photo: Bruce Bowen/Twitter
LaMarcus Aldridge reportedly left his first free agency meeting with the Los Angeles feeling underwhelmed, but he apparently respects the franchise enough that he was willing to give it another shot.
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reports that Aldridge granted the Lakers’ request for a second meeting on Thursday night, and the team spent the entire 90 minutes talking about basketball this time around.
The Lakers are said to have pitched mostly branding opportunities to Aldridge in the first meeting, which did not sit well with the 29-year-old. According to Shelburne, the team apologized for that in the second meeting and brought in an assistant coach who deals in the analytical part of the game.
After getting feedback on Aldridge’s reaction to their presentation, the Lakers requested and were granted a second meeting Thursday night. One source said they made a point of apologizing to the 29-year-old Aldridge for not giving a more well-rounded presentation and thanking him for giving them a second chance. In addition to general manager Mitch Kupchak and coach Byron Scott, they brought assistant coach Mark Madsen to the presentation. Madsen is the liaison between the coaching staff and the franchise’s analytics staff.
Aldridge signing with the Lakers still seems like a long shot, as he also was reportedly rubbed the wrong way by some stuff that Kobe Bryant said during the first meeting. And then there were the embarrassing tweets featuring celebrities, which Aldridge probably didn’t appreciate if basketball is what’s most important to him.
While it still seems unlikely that the Lakers can land Aldridge, they are obviously in better shape than the New York Knicks. The top free agent prize cancelled his meeting with the Knicks earlier this week.
With Tim Duncan officially announcing on Thursday that he will play another NBA season, there’s no reason to think the San Antonio Spurs have been bumped out of their position as frontrunners for Aldridge.
While LaMarcus Aldridge is currently weighing offers from teams on where to continue his career, a Portland Brewery is offering an incentive for Aldridge to stay in the area.
Breakside Brewery is enticing Aldridge to stay with free beer for life as well as a signature beer.
Aldridge has already reportedly told the Lakers “thanks, but no thanks”, which resulted in tweets as part of a social media campaign to get Aldridge to Los Angeles to be deleted.
Pat Riley is reportedly meeting with Aldridge, putting the Heat in the mix. The Suns cleared a considerable amount of cap space in attempt to offer Aldridge a max contract. The Spurs are firmly in the discussion as well, and probably the favorite to land his signature.
Despite all of the teams courting Aldridge, the Blazers can’t be counted out just yet. Damian Lillard is reportedly headed to meet with his teammate of the past three seasons in an effort to convince him the Blazers are the right situation for him. Perhaps beer will be included as part of his pitch?
Sound the alarm. A new contender has emerged from behind the shadows and unexpectedly tossed its hat into the ring in the LaMarcus Aldridge sweepstakes. The Godfather is alive and well as Pat Riley and the Miami Heat are now said to be in hot pursuit of the top prize of the 2015 free agency period.
Riley is reportedly in Los Angeles on vacation but as it turns out, he may be tending to some business matters in the City of Angels as he is now slated to meet Aldridge over dinner on Thursday night.
Wow. It appears that after coming to terms with Goran Dragic on Wednesday, then Dwyane Wade on Thursday, Pat Riley might not be done just yet.
Though the Heat have little money to offer and the starting frontcourt positions are already filled by Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside, this could be an instance of Pat Riley showing that he can still get into a room with top free agents (something that has long been his calling card) and reminding rival teams that he’s still a very big threat as 2016 and the free agency of Kevin Durant approach.
For Aldridge in Miami to even make sense financially, the Heat would have to do a lot of roster maneuvering.
However, if they are willing to include Whiteside in a sign-and-trade with Portland and if they are able to find a taker to dump the contracts of guys like Mario Chalmers, Chris “Birdman” Andersen, and Josh McRoberts on, then things could get interesting.
A starting lineup of Dragic-Wade-Luol Deng-Aldridge-Bosh would be sacrificing a ton defensively but would offer a positionless, pace-and-space offensive monster unlike any the NBA has ever seen. Bosh has championship experience playing at the 5 and the presence of two elite shooting bigs would open up driving lanes and kick-outs to shooters galore for Wade and Dragic’s playmaking abilities to thrive.
Gambling on Whiteside’s future is a dicey proposition for Miami as with his attitude issues, he could combust at any time and find himself the next Andrew Bynum or Larry Sanders just as soon as he could find himself the next dominant big man. It’s unclear if Portland values him since Whiteside can leave in free agency for nothing in 2016 with zero advantages available for retaining him. But after trading away Nicolas Batum and overpaying the likes of Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis in free agency, it would be just the type of desperate move that has characterized the Blazers so far this offseason.
If the Heat really want to make this happen, for me, the only untouchables on the roster are Goran, Wade, Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Justise Winslow. Everyone else is fair game.
So let’s hold our breaths and see what happens with Riley’s dinner with Aldridge on Thursday. Does Pat throw his rings on the table in front of Aldridge and just stare at him for the duration of it? Maybe, but if one thing’s for sure, it’s that the NBA is learning once again that you never count out The Godfather when it comes time for free agency.