Originally published on 4 Jan, 2013 on Sportskeeda.
“As much notoriety as Nic Batum and Damian Lillard have been getting, which they deserve, LaMarcus is the guy who holds it together for us. When things start going bad for us, we look to him to bail us out. And he has been our most consistent performer. I just think he has a game that people have come to take for granted.’’
- Portland Trailblazers coach Terry Stotts
Being taken for granted. That’s what’s happened to LaMarcus Aldridge for a long while. He is not your traditional big man. He is one of the most versatile fours in the league and his numbers speak for themselves, as he averages 20.8 points and 8.2 rebounds, one of only 8 players in the league to do so.
LaMarcus Aldridge finished 3rd in the Most Improved player voting in 2008 and 2nd in 2011. For a player to push his ceiling up time and time again, you need to be incredibly multi-dimensional. Aldridge does that. The Trailblazers, who were once looking to be a dynasty with Oden, Roy, and Aldridge, are now banking on LaMarcus Aldridge to lead them to the promised land. And Aldridge has delivered as best as he can.
LaMarcus has become the 15th Trail Blazer named to an NBA All-Star Game, his first career All-Star selection. He is the first Trail Blazer to finish in the top seven in the NBA in scoring since Clyde Drexler placed fourth in 1991-92. He is one of three players in the NBA to average at least 21.7 points per game and shot at least 50% from the field (LeBron James and Kevin Durant are the other two). Placed 14th in the NBA in field goal percentage (51.2%) and 15th in minutes per game (36.3), he became the first player in team history to record 33 points and 23 rebounds in the same game.
I had a chat with the face of the Portland Trailblazers, LaMarcus Aldridge:
Sid: You declared yourself eligible for the draft and then withdrew your name. Was that more of an academic decision or it was about getting experience in college basketball?
LA: College is a learning experience. I didn’t want to miss out on it on both counts.
Sid: You finished 3rd in the Most Improved Player voting in ’08 and 2nd 10-11. How are you able to keep pushing up your ceiling?
LA: I just continue to work on my game. Everyday I train hard, go home and train some more. Keep working hard, adding different dimensions to my game and keep improving in all areas. And it shows.
Sid: The Rose Garden is one of the toughest places for anyone to play, on the other hand, it doesn't have the nationals spotlight. Do you think you not being an all-star earlier in your career had something to do with playing in a small market?
LA: Portland is a great place to play. The best fans in the NBA, they stick with us through the ups and downs. I think being in a small market might have affected my All-Star selection. But I feel like if you play at an All Star level long enough, you will make it in the game, as I proved last year. But being in a small market does affect your bid. Maybe numbers would have meant more if I played in a big market.
Sid: You said that after Roy was gone, your situation was like going from being Robin to Batman. Right now, who is Robin to you among Lillard, Batum, and Matthews?
LA: If I had to pick a Robin, it would be back and forth between Batum and Lillard. Lillard has been taking over games in the 4th quarter for us, and is poised to take over if he continues to do so. Right now its between Batum and Lillard.
Sid: What do you think you have to do to silence the critics who think you need to rebound more, put on weight, etc. Do you think it has to do more with you adding facets to your game or is it more about winning, that is once the team begins to win the critics are silenced.
LA: I think its all about winning if you make your team win then everything comes together. Then people begin to see what you can do. We have to go deep in the playoffs. I don’t really worry about being criticised I try to play my game every night. I try to get better every night and make my teammates better.
Sid: This season, you can cross Sidney Wicks to become 9th all-time on the Blazers scoring list. Is that something you have marked on your calendar?
LA: I would definitely like to become the 9th highest all-time scorer. But that is not something I focus on. I focus on winning and playing the way I do. I feel like if I continue to play the way I do, it will come my way. I would definitively love to become the 9th all time scoring leader for the Blazers.
Sid: You’ve had a litany of diseases, blood poisoning, and heart complication. Do you at any point stop and think that risking yourself playing basketball is not worth it?
LA: I love basketball, so if I did have some serious condition or scare I would still love to play. But luckily the NBA have their policy to make sure that everyone is healthy. It would have to be something very serious to keep me away from the game.
Sid: As a big man, you are exceptionally talented at scoring from mid-range. Was that something you had to fight against, people pushing you to play close to the basket and you having to prove that your strength lies in a more versatile game?
LA: I just kept playing my game. Work on my jumper. Play the way I play. Show people that I am able to do that at a high level. There were always people talking about the way I was playing and the way I ought to have played. When people point something out I try to work on that part of my game so I did a little bit of both. If you look around the league today, there are a lot of versatile big men, Dirk Nowitzki for one, who can punish the defense from a distance.
Sid: India’s best bet for the NBA is a 7 footer, Satnam Singh. As a big man and the face of a franchise yourself, any words of advice for him?
LA: I’d tell him to try to work hard every day. Try to become more skillful. Work on the game, not just dunk. Practice shooting with both hands. shooting off the dribble. Work on ball handling. These days as a big man there are a lot of things you can do to improve. Work on a lot of things to become an all-round player. Do things outside of a traditional big man’s mold. Rebound and shoot well, incorporate as many things as you can at a young age so you can develop on it.
Sid: This season, the Blazers have got Neil Olshey as GM, and he did an incredible job with the Clippers. Are you looking forward to major changes in this offseason?
LA: Not really major changes, but we will be looking to make additions and changes1. For our part, we’ll just try to go night in and night out and play hard. We’re excited to have him. Looking forward to what he’s going to do to make us better. We are in a phase of rebuilding, we are going to get good players who will help us be in a position to contend.
Sid: You say you see yourself as the best power forward in the league. Which player is the most difficult to guard for you?
I’d say Dirk Nowitzki, I had to guard him during the playoffs and he was an incredibly hard cover. He’s a versatile big man who does things a traditional four doesn’t do.
Sid: Do you think this is more of a rebuilding year for the Blazers? Or are you looking to contend for the title this year?
LA: This year is more of a rebuilding transition year for us. I don’t see us contending right now. Though I see this as a rebuilding year, we are still a team that can win games. We just have to be more consistent night in and night out.
The Blazers are in the race to keep the 8th playoff spot out West right now. Once they can make it to the post-season, they are a team that can worry any of their opposition in the league. Keep an eye out for LaMarcus Aldridge shining for the Blazers.