Mailbag: LaMarcus Aldridge's Commentary

LaMarcus Aldridge walked the walk all season, but did he talk the talk a little too late and a little too kindly? Photo: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

Hi Dave,

I was wondering if you were going to state your opinions about LaMarcus Aldridge calling out his teammates? Do you think it showed signs of leadership? Do you think this will make it harder for new free agents to come if they think they will get called out in the media? I for one think his honesty was a breath of fresh air. He worked his butt off this year, and there were some guys that didn't put out the same effort.

Dan

I'm totally fine with it. It probably needed to be done. It's hard to say whether it showed "signs of leadership" as we only have one point of view. Muddying the waters: this revelation happened after the season and after both principal targets of Aldridge's scorn are presumably gone from the team. We'll never know exactly went on in the locker room or what those conversations entailed, but saying something, knowing it isn't heard, saying, "Oh well, what can you do?", watching the team fall apart, and then talking about it afterwards while shaking your head is not exactly in the first five chapters of the How To Be an Effective Leader manual. It looks like increased leadership, sure, but the circumstances might mitigate that. It's hard to say. It certainly would have changed the tone and effect of the article had this come out when Nate McMillan was in the process of being fired. That would have been a bolder statement.

Aldridge's words certainly confirm suspicions anybody with two working eyes had while watching the Blazers this year, that players quit on the team. The most telling quote in the whole article was his version of, "What the hell are you doing?!?" This provides a handkerchief for anybody shedding a tear for the departure of Portland's veteran guards. In that sense it's still valuable.

I don't believe LaMarcus has the personality, nor was he equipped with the experience, to deal with his recalcitrant teammates. I suspect the only solution that would have worked was the one that Kobe Bryant (for example) would have taken under similar circumstances. A rough translation:

"You're complaining about shots and minutes? [Screw] you. This is my team. Shut up and get me the ball. And yeah, that means I get all the shots and touches I want. I've earned that. That's why it says, 'All-Star' on my jersey. Call me when you've got one more appearance in that game than I do, or when you've taken your team farther in the playoffs than I have. Until then, feed me. You want to complain? Go to the coach. But if you do that, or if you try to freeze me out in the slightest, I guarantee you I am going to tell him that I will not play with you on the court, even if that means I have to carry a rookie around clinging to my jock to get me the ball. I'll do it. You will sit and you will sulk and you will watch me score 40 a game while you whine on Twitter. Try me. Because, what did I say now? Oh yeah. [Screw] you. This is my team. And you DO NOT screw it up."

In an abstract situation that makes you look like a selfish jerk. In this situation it's getting through to the actual selfish jerks in a way they understand...the way they're trying to act with everyone else. Talking about your position instead of the good of the team is the equivalent of saying, "If anybody's going to be the shot and minute jerk here, it's ME." That doesn't obligate you to actually do so. In fact it's better if you don't. But that throne is yours whether you choose to occupy it or leave it vacant. Nobody else gets to sit there, especially not if they're going to ruin your season by doing so.

I don't think LaMarcus was raised like that in basketball terms. First of all, Nate McMillan generally preached team ball. Second, Aldridge had to get along with Brandon Roy and the shade of Greg Oden, meaning sharing was a priority. Third, there weren't any hard-nosed veterans to display that kind of leadership when Aldridge was a pup, as the team's most talented players were all from that young generation. Zach Randolph probably displayed the attitude, but he was a "Don't Do" example, not a paragon. So now, when you needed someone to make a big deal out of poking someone in the chest and putting them back in place, that card just wasn't in his hand. Maybe now that he's seen the results of not playing it he'll have the necessary experience to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. On the other hand, maybe it's just not in his DNA, which is fine too. It doesn't have to be if you don't acquire that kind of player to put around him. But I'd be more comfortable knowing that he had the option.

LaMarcus, these guys took away an entire season of your career. How many do you get? Look at what happened to Brandon Roy if you want an example of how unexpectedly short the run can be. Don't let anybody take that away from you, ever.

As to whether this will make free agents think twice about coming to Portland, only if those free agents are named Raymond Felton and Jamal Crawford. Anybody who watched Felton "forget" how to dribble or Crawford take any shot he pleased after the coaching change knows what was going on here. Nobody wants to be in that kind of situation. I'm thinking that Aldridge coming forward won't bother good free agents a bit. Nor would it necessarily intimidate bad ones, though, as Felton and Crawford still collected their checks through their string of lark-a-daisy play.

In the end Aldridge's quotes were interesting but not transformative. Hopefully the past season was a growing experience for him. We'll not know that for a while, I suppose. I hope even more that he's never put in this kind of situation again. I suspect everyone playing on that court--and I know everyone watching from the stands--was plenty sick of it well before it ended.

Thanks for the question, and keep them coming to blazersub@gmail.com

--Dave (blazersub@gmail.com)

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