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LaMarcus Aldridge Reflects on Time With Blazers, Damian Lillard

The newly retired big man says he wishes he had worked harder to build a relationship with Dame.

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Portland Trailblazers v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

In a newly-released interview with Shams Charania of the Athletic, former Portland Trail Blazers big man LaMarcus Aldridge reveals his regrets regarding his departure from the team. In the interview, which marks his first major one since his sudden retirement due to Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, Aldridge says he wishes he had worked harder to build bridges with Damian Lillard.

They say hindsight is 20/20. As you get older you get more wiser and you see things more clear. I think as you get older, you have less of an ego, you’re less sensitive. Maybe all those things are true. The only thing I look back on is I wish I would have worked at it better to have a relationship with Dame (Lillard). I feel like we both had our circles talking to us. Maybe that helped stifle our relationship, but we definitely have gotten a better relationship since then. But I think just trying to get a better relationship with him. It’s just tough because people see the career I had, but people don’t realize how I got there.

He also discloses how being neglected despite being the no. 2 pick overall impacted his perception of the organization.

I was picked No. 2, but (team people) said I was an actual project. So they didn’t pick No. 2 and say, ‘Hey, he’s our guy, we’re going to play behind him.’ I was No. 2, and I didn’t even play much my first year. I missed camp. They jumped behind Brandon Roy. I was the No. 2 pick, which I thought, hey, I’m No. 2, they’re all in. But they weren’t really all in. I was on the back burner. And then we got Greg (Oden). So then when Greg was playing well, I was on the back burner again. And they tried to trade me. So I wasn’t the guy that they believed in right away. That’s why at times things were a little iffy there, because every time we were healthy with Andre Miller and Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, it was like … OK, I was more of the guy that they would put on the back burner or try to trade. And then all those guys got hurt, and I was thrown to the front out of a necessity. That’s when I finally got my opportunity to be who I became. It’s just funny to me how when you’re a No. 2 pick, most of those guys come in … Hey, you’re a part of this and have opportunities. With me, it was like … I was a project and I was like, well, who picks No. 2 as a project? I understand they have Zach Randolph.

Aldridge regrets not talking more with Lillard.

I just feel like I wish Dame and I would’ve talked more and tried to develop a better relationship. Part of it was he was young, trying to find his way, and I had worked so hard to get to this spot I was at. I wish I would have worked harder … the only regret I have is I wish I would have worked harder to have a relationship with Dame.

He also wishes that Brandon Roy and Greg Oden had remained healthy.

I look back all the time with B. Roy and what if Greg and B. Roy stayed healthy. We definitely could have gotten to the Finals. I feel like if those guys stayed healthy, we probably would all still be there right now. I just feel like that group had so much potential there. I definitely think like, man … with Greg, Brandon and myself, we were 50-12. So I definitely think about that group and what could have been.

Most of all, he wonders what would have happened had he stayed against the balance of what has happened since.

And with Dame too, I feel he’s definitely grown a lot. He’s definitely one of the most clutch, elite players in the game right now. So I definitely have wondered if I would have stayed and kept doing what I was doing. And him growing who he is now. That’s a good one-two punch. And CJ (McCollum), who’s been killing it too. So you put us all three together, and the sky could definitely be the limit.

I’m more of a realist too, though and I feel like me leaving was great for Dame because then he wasn’t having to share it with me anymore, a dominant personality. It was his. Then he really exploded and took off and really started to put his stamp on the franchise and his stamp on the game. So things happen for a reason. And him and CJ, playing off each other, take turns it. It took out the guy down low. If we would have stayed together, some special things could have happened, though, for sure.

You can read the entire interview here (subscription required).