San Antonio Spurs: LaMarcus Aldridge confirms unhappiness rumors
By Rob Wolkenbrod
LaMarcus Aldridge was indeed unhappy on the San Antonio Spurs. He voiced his displeasure to head coach Gregg Popovich and revealed the details behind it.
Around the 2017 NBA Draft, ESPN reported how LaMarcus Aldridge was not happy on the San Antonio Spurs, so the team looked to trade him for a lottery pick. This never came to fruition, as Aldridge remained part of the organization, and already suited up for the team’s first preseason game.
Rumors in any sport can be overblown or not be true. That leads to media vs player drama and wild reactions on social media, especially in 2017. However, in Aldridge’s case, his displeasure was true, if there had been any doubt.
ESPN’s Michael C. Wright wrote a feature on how Aldridge enters his third on the Spurs, detailing the struggles he faced in the first two seasons in San Antonio. In a quote from the 11-year pro, he recalled voicing his unhappiness with head coach Gregg Popovich. He thought he caught Popovich off guard:
“I think he was kind of caught off guard. I don’t think he really had noticed [that I was unhappy]. But once I said it, he was great about listening, and it was good from there. I felt like I wasn’t really fitting into the system as best I could. I wasn’t really helping like I felt I could.”
Popovich also said he wanted to make Aldridge more comfortable in the offense. He even blamed himself for not following through with this:
“We have talked about what we can do to make him more comfortable, and to make our team better. But having said that, I think we are mostly talking about offense. Defense, he was fantastic for us. Now, we have got to help him a little bit more so that he is comfortable in his own space offensively, and I haven’t done a very good job of that.”
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Aldridge prevented a potential offseason media circus by speaking with Popovich, before making any public comments about his unhappiness. The Spurs rarely, if ever, have one of these, so it’s a positive that the issues were fleshed out behind the scenes.
Much of this was taken notice of in the 2017 Western Conference Finals. When Kawhi Leonard was lost for the series in Game 1, it allowed Aldridge to step into the spotlight as the go-to player. That never materialized, which led to public scrutiny from Popovich, as Bleacher Report noted.
Despite this realization, it’s still a critical season for Aldridge in San Antonio. He’s in the final year of his contract, before he gets to use a player option for the 2018-19 season. If he opts in for $22 million, then, there will be at least one more year of No. 12 in the Alamo City.
In Monday’s preseason opener, Aldridge looked comfortable on offense. He scored a quick 17 points in 16 minutes, including one 3-pointer. The former Portland Trail Blazer spoke of his outside-shooting work at media day. It only came in an exhibition game, but was a noteworthy takeaway of his performance.
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Aldridge will get his next opportunity get comfortable on Friday, Oct. 6, when the Spurs face the Kings. The game starts at 8:30 p.m. ET. Leonard will miss the game and all of the preseason, due to a quad injury. So the Texas product has the chance to take the reins and be more aggressive.