Ian Thomsen has a lengthy article on nba.com about LaMarcus Aldridge fighting through adversity in his team's quest for an NBA title. He writes about how Aldridge felt when Wes Matthews, the most inspirational player and his closest friend on the Trail Blazers, went down with a torn Achilles tendon. Aldridge knew that this latest adversity for the team had made their quest even more difficult.
Aldridge wasn't supposed to be in uniform on the night of his friend's injury last week. In the days after Jan. 19, when he had been forced out of the game after trying to steal the ball from DeMarcus Cousins, Aldridge was doubting whether he would be back anytime soon.
Immediately following that injury it was announced that Aldridge would have surgery on his left thumb to repair the radial collateral ligament tear and the doctors said it should be done ASAP. Then Aldridge changed course, deciding to postpone treatment and play out the season. He averaged 28.2 points per game in the five games he played after the injury.
"The decision for him to come back was one thing," Stotts said. "But then it was how well he played after that, because really nobody knew. How well he played over the five-game stretch really buoyed everybody."
Thomsen says that LA has become a quiet, but strong leader for the Trail Blazers.
He is one of those stars who is friendly but appears to be never quite happy. He is rarely content. There is always something that he has to prove. Aldridge is never going to forget that he became the leader of this team by default, because the more favored careers of Brandon Roy and Greg Oden had been ruined by injury.
During All-Star Weekend Aldridge connected with a kindred spirit, Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol.
"He's really smart defensively -- knows how to use his hands, and people don't realize how tall he is," said Memphis center Marc Gasol of the 6-foot-11 Aldridge. . . . He's a low-key guy, a quiet guy as well, so we relate to each other."
Thomsen believes that the Trail Blazers are still in championship contention at least in part because of injuries to players on the other teams in the Western Conference. Every contending team has experienced health issues. Thomsen points out that Terry Stotts was the assistant coach when the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA Championship in 2010-2011 without their second-leading scorer, Caron Butler.
When the Mavericks won, it was their best player, Dirk Nowitzki, who played the most influential basketball of his Hall of Fame career.
That is the challenge now for Aldridge. This is his opportunity.
Could fortune favor the Blazers as well?