Sorry if this is inappropriate, but I need to dedicate this column to our cat Shana, who has had 19 amazing, reciprocally-loving years with my partner; five or so of those with me.
Times like these make you appreciative of what you have, and compels you to do the things that make you happy. For me, the Blazers are one thing that makes me happy. So maybe it’s fitting that I would want to write about the most important Blazer on the team, LaMarcus Aldridge.
With Neil Olshey’s aggressive response to reporters asking about LaMarcus Aldridge’s future in Portland, fans should be able to hash out exactly why LA is so important to the Blazers. In that spirit, here’s a short list of reasons to be stoked about him:
- LaMarcus Aldridge is consistent and reliable. For the Blazers, who have dealt with so many injuries it almost seems unfair, this has to be comforting. He played 74 games last year, and the 19 games he missed his rookie year are the most games he’s missed in any of his seven seasons. In 2012-13, LaMarcus Aldridge only had 2 games with single-digit scoring, and only 7 games with less than 5 rebounds.
- LaMarcus is arguably the best power forwards in the game. HOOPSWORLD has him at #2, and Kevin Pelton wrote that “no power forward in the NBA is better at both ends than Aldridge.” It’s hard to fathom who any Blazer fan would rather have at the four, because while a few names might crop up, none would offer sizable improvements in any given area, let alone overall.
- He’s a better defender than he gets credit for. Here’s something you may not know: LaMarcus Aldridge holds opponents to the 5th-lowest field goal percetage within 6 feet of the rim of anyone in the NBA. There’s much more than that to being a good defender, but it’s significant. He also averaged 1.2 blocks game last season, tying his career high.
- He can get out in transition or slow it down. His arsenal of post moves make him perfect in a grind-out offense a-la the Brandon Roy era. His length, speed, and stamina make him perfect for getting out in transition a-la what Coach Stotts has preached (if not yet practiced consistently). That he can do both with aplomb is unique and shouldn’t be taken for granted.
- He’s becoming a go-to clutch player. Anyone need to be reminded that he hit his first three of the year against Dallas to tie the game with 4.5 seconds left? That he then hit the game winner as time expired? Or that he finished that game with 29 points and 13 boards?
- He isn’t an egomaniac. If you saw that last video, you will see from LaMarcus a reaction much different than most. No jersey-popping. No flexing. No scowling. No pounding his own chest. What you see is his smiling and connecting with his teammates. And that attitude allows him to be flexible, to surrender the ball when someone else is heating up, to be the guy to take the pressure off the hot hand rather than needing to be the man all the time.
- He wants to get better. Speaking of threes, Aldridge says he’s extending his range to 24 feet. While not everyone would be stoked about a near 7-footer playing further from the basket, long two-pointers are, statistically speaking, some of the least-efficient shots you can take. If you can pull it out to the three, you should do it.
A tall, versatile, talented, team player who’s among the NBA’s best at his position? That’s LaMarcus Aldridge. We’re lucky to have him. And we should remember to offer LaMarcus our praise and recognition just as often as our critiques.