Sam Amick of USAToday Sports has penned an article explaining some of the reasons LaMarcus Aldridge left the Portland Trail Blazers after a productive 9-year relationship to join the San Antonio Spurs. It's a brilliant and fairly accurate look at the complex dynamic between Aldridge and the organization.
The thesis starts with Aldridge feeling a lack of appreciation:
For years, the rumblings that Aldridge wasn't happy with his place in the Portland spotlight were always there. First it was Brandon Roy stealing his thunder, then Greg Oden before his ill-fated fall, and then this young and dynamic talent named Damian Lillard whose star rose far too quickly for Aldridge's liking. All along the way, the complaints that would rarely, if ever, come directly from Aldridge himself were consistent: one way or another, intentional or not, he felt underappreciated - if not disrespected.
This is as far as most stories go, leading the reader to believe that Aldridge's motivations were solely petty. But Amick expands:
The difficult dynamic between Aldridge and Lillard was as real as advertised, but it wasn't a personality clash so much as it was a problem with their respective profiles. Marketing is a funny thing that way, and the harsh truth about Aldridge's portfolio is that it's not nearly what it should be, in large part, because of the way in which he has handled his own affairs.
Meanwhile, it could be argued that Lillard - who came out of a small school (Weber State) and has flourished in a small market - has the best pound-for-pound profile in the NBA. This, make no mistake, was the contrast that caused so much conflict.
The relationship between Aldridge and Lillard wasn't driven by personal issues as much as place and age. Aldridge got All-NBA Awards and All-Star bids, but he had to mature and develop before receiving them, Lillard got the same the second he stepped into the NBA. Aldridge's awards did not translate into fame. He wasn't young, marketing-savvy. "Two-Bar Tuesday" did not precede "Four-Bar Friday". Aldridge ended up on a squad with one of the best social- and traditional-media savants in all of sports. Aldridge would get a trophy and a nice round of applause. Lillard would get the same trophy and a photo-shoot for a high-profile magazine and 6 commercials.
Amick also details the lengths to which the Blazers went to make up the gap:
But the challenging part for the Blazers folks who tried so hard through the years to understand him is that Aldridge's understated ways made it nearly impossible to satisfy this request. He routinely turned down interviews, or didn't maximize off-court opportunities of which Lillard would take full advantage. He is known as the private type, the kind of player and person who prefers to play his game and let someone else handle the lion's share of the leadership duties. Except, of course, until someone does just that, reaps the benefits of it and kickstarts the cycle of jealousy that had everything to do with his departure.
Fast forward to all the plaques the Blazers handed out to Aldridge pre-game. Apparently they did quite a bit more. But Aldridge did not have the public-friendly personality.
Facebook allows you to advertise certain subjects by putting an "@" symbol before it. When you do so, it shows you the number of people who "like" the topic. Type in Aldridge's name and it reads 183,126. Type in Lillard's and you find 2,367,907. One of these things is not like the other. No amount of pushing into the public eye is going to change that.
In this sense, Aldridge's discontent was foreordained. It also makes the more understated, team-oriented approach to San Antonio's PR make sense...along with his entrance as franchise savior.
It's a good look at a complicated topic, certainly better than the "LaMarcus and Dame didn't get along" explanation that most articles on the topic settle for.