Following a disappointing 2012-13 season, rumblings grew louder this past offseason that Portland Trail Blazers star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge wanted out. But now with a retooled roster around him, Aldridge is happy in Portland, according to Sam Amick of USA Today.
Aldridge sat down with Amick prior to Tuesday night's game against the Houston Rockets and said he feels the Blazers are a team that can make some things happen this year:
"I'm happy here right now," Aldridge told USA TODAY Sports while sitting on a bench inside the team's practice facility. "I feel like we have a team that can win, that can make noise, and I feel like if we buy in then anything is possible. So I'm happy, and it's still my team and I'm playing well.
"I feel like the team has jelled around me. I feel like coach (Terry Stotts) has trusted me more this year to where I'm getting different opportunities that I didn't get last year, so I think everything is going great right now."
Aldridge's outlook was quite a bit different at the end of last year when the Blazers were wrapping up a 33-49 season that ended on a 13-game losing streak. The team had no bench and Aldridge's frontcourt mate was a power forward in J.J. Hickson trying to play center, a position he's not cut out to play.
Instead of dealing Aldridge, Blazers general manager Neil Olshey set out to improve the team, acquiring Robin Lopez to play center and adding players like Mo Williams, Dorell Wright, Earl Watson and Thomas Robinson.
The start of this season has been a bit of a roller coaster thus far. Things started on a down note with a loss to the Phoenix Suns in the opener, but that was followed by two straight wins, including an impressive 115-105 victory over the San Antonio Spurs. The Blazers did lose by 15 to the Rockets on Tuesday, so there's still work to be done before they can be seriously considered a legitimate playoff contender in the West.
Still, having a happy Aldridge is a good start, and he has played like a man desperate to win. The Aldridge-Damian Lillard pairing has the potential to be one of the most dynamic in the league, and both players are currently averaging over 24 points through four games. Those two spearhead an offense that's scoring 105.0 points per game, and if the defense comes around, the Blazers should have a good shot at one of the final playoff spots in the West.