A source familiar with last summer's discussions between former Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge and his team has told Blazer's Edge that Aldridge's comments to The Oregonian were not his idea, but came at the behest of General Manager Neil Olshey.
The comments in question were made in an interview published July 8th, 2014. In the article Aldridge was quoted, saying:
"I'm happy to stay, happy to be here, happy with the direction the team has gone the last year or two... This has no impact on my interest in staying in Portland. I just want to get a five-year deal. I feel like that's the best decision on my part."
Aldridge's statements went well beyond the financial:
"I want to be the best Blazer — ever. If I stay the rest of my career, I should be able to catch Clyde by then. I should be able to leave a mark on a big-time franchise that is going to be seen forever. And I will be able to say I played here my whole career. This city has embraced me and grown with me. I have so much history, it just makes sense to stay."
"This was not the situation," the source tells Blazer's Edge. "Olshey wanted Aldridge to sign an extension badly. Aldridge was reluctant. He was not sure he wanted to play in Portland and he told Olshey he wouldn't extend. Olshey knew it would look bad and wouldn't help Aldridge, the team, or his own image. He asked Aldridge to call Freeman and tell him those things to keep the pressure off. This was premeditated, set up by Neil."
This story is significant for a few reasons:
1. It makes clear that Olshey and the Blazers were aware that Aldridge's departure was a definite possibility throughout the season. They knew since last summer when he didn't sign an extension.
2. The public vitriol being directed at Aldridge for "lying" to the Blazers and their fans is misplaced. Those statements were a public relations move by the Blazers front office, enacted through Aldridge.
This would change the narrative surrounding Aldridge's departure and the Trail Blazers' actions in this summer's free agency period.
A second source with knowledge of the situation offers this:
It started with the Eggers interview. [Kerry Eggers interviewed Aldridge for the Portland Tribune on January 12th, 2014.] Some people around Aldridge took his comments to Eggers uncharacteristically off-the-cuff, as if he got wrapped up in the moment. They were surprised by the comments. But it played well and management encouraged Aldridge to take them further. People around Aldridge understood that those comments could come back to bite him later, as he's prone to changing his mind more than most.