On Thursday, the NBA announced the starting lineups for the 2012 All-Star Game on a TNT special. Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge finished sixth among Western Conference forwards during the fan voting process.
The TNT panel then debated who the league's coaches should vote in as All-Star reserves. Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Chris Webber all selected Aldridge as a reserve for the Western Conference team. Smith even wore custom-made Beats by Dre headphones produced by the Blazers in support of Aldridge while Barkley vowed not to attend All-Star Weekend if Aldridge was snubbed.
Since then, Aldridge has been getting All-Star love from pretty much everywhere.
Annie Peterson of the Associated Press did a profile of Aldridge and his All-Star bid.
"It would be nice," he said. "Of course I would like to be an All-Star. Who wouldn't?"
However, in another sign of how far he's come, Aldridge puts the onus for the Blazers' success on himself. He said he hasn't yet played his best, but he feels as though he's coming on.
"I feel like last year I was better. I might have better numbers this season, but I feel like last year down the stretch I was playing really well," he said. "I want to be dominant. I want to close games. I want to be one of the best power forwards in this league, and I think I'm getting there."
Marc Stein of ESPN.com picked Aldridge as a reserve.
Aldridge, meanwhile, surely figured he'd have to settle for a wild-card slot at best when the season began, knowing that this is usually where Dirk Nowitzki parks. But Nowitzki's slowest start since his rookie season and the leaguewide spike in Aldridge's street cred -- as evidenced by his recent nomination to the list of 20 finalists for Team USA's Olympic adventure in London in the summer -- makes his selection (with a PER reading approaching 24) almost as inevitable as Love's.
Which is good news for those of you who enjoy the city of Portland. Who knows how angry the locals would be -- and what they might do -- if LMA is snubbed again like last February?
Tom Ziller of SBNation.com picked Aldridge as a reserve.
FORWARD NO. 2: LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge's numbers aren't as uniquely amazing as those of Love, but LMA's consistent, strong production is not to be ignored. Portland should be in the playoffs, barring injuries, and Aldridge is clearly the team's most important player. It seems some fans are ignored in a Love or Aldridge debate; that shouldn't exist, because both guys should be in.
Eric Freeman of Yahoo!'s Ball Don't Lie picked Aldridge as a reserve.
PF LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers: There are few better stories in the league than that of Aldridge, who came into the league with questions about his toughness, looked like the weakest part of the presumed Blazers' star trio of Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, and put the team on his back when those two failed to recover from multiple injuries. He's not the most exciting player in the league on a play-to-play basis, but he's a necessary component of any game that purports to represent the best the NBA has to offer.
Dave McMenamin of ESPNLA.com reports that Hall of Fame Los Angeles Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar bestowed praise on Aldridge.
Abdul-Jabbar said he doesn't watch enough games nowadays to judge who is the best among the league's current crop of centers, but did reserve praise for one player in particular.
"I know there's one guy that posts up in the same way that I used to," Abdul-Jabbar said. "He plays for Portland: LaMarcus Aldridge. He shoots a hook shot and he is a very effective player. He scores inside and turns around, goes out to 12 feet and shoots jumpers and is really able to do that."
Earlier, Henry Abbott of TrueHoop.com stated Aldridge's All-Star case.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter