LaMarcus Aldridge's free agency process was overshadowed by the circus surrounding DeAndre Jordan's, but it had some very interesting moments and dramatic twists. From the time rumors that he wasn't going back to Portland surfaced, three teams were reportedly frontrunners for his services. He had meetings with the Lakers, Suns, Spurs, Raptors, Rockets, Heat and Mavericks and canceled one with the Knicks. In the end it came down to the Spurs and Suns, and he ended up joining Tim Duncan in San Antonio.
Now that some time has passed, Aldridge went on the record on the Ryen Rusillo Show to deny any issue with Damian Lillard, why he had two meetings in Los Angeles, what ultimately caused him to leave Portland and more.
On his relationship with Damian Lillard:
"We have no issue with each other, no animosity. We got along very well with each other during the season. I thought we played well off of each other. All of that stuff is just rumors, as I've dealt with before."
There have been rumblings about Aldridge feeling like Lillard was stealing too much attention. Of course Aldridge denied it. The fact that he joined the Spurs, a typically reserved franchise that doesn't promote its players, seems to point to the rumor not being entirely accurate or the spotlight not being as important to Aldridge as originally thought.
On why the Lakers got two meetings:
"With the Lakers, it wasn't anything crazy. It was just the meeting didn't go as well as I wanted it to, so I did another one. People blew it out of proportion about things happening in the meeting. That wasn't correct. It just didn't go as good as I wanted it to so I had one more."
The reports at the time suggested Aldridge and Kobe Bryant hadn't really clicked and the first meeting was too focused on life in Hollywood instead of basketball. The second meeting sought to rectify that. While Aldridge doesn't offer many details, he did confirm that the Lakers didn't make a good first impression.
On why he cancelled the meeting with the Knicks;
"They told me they wanted me to play strictly the five (center). So, they didn't want to meet with me. People say it was me but it was both parties agreeing we shouldn't meet."
New York fans should feel good about this because Aldridge didn't rule out joining the Knicks as much as both the franchise and the player decided the fit wasn't good. The Knicks wanted a center to pair with Camelo Anthony and Aldridge doesn't see himself as one.
On why he left Portland:
"Me leaving didn't have to do with any of that. It was me feeling like being close to home, by my family, being able to see them more and just a change of scenery. I had been in Portland for nine years. I had been through a couple of rebuilds, so it was just time to try something new. It wasn’t anything toward Damian or the organization."
Aldridge is from Texas and returning home was always something that reportedly intrigued him. His departure was somewhat surprising only because he had said only months before leaving that he wanted to stay in Portland and be "the best Blazer ever." However, SB Nation's Portland site Blazer's Edge reported that the statement was general manager Neil Olshey's idea. Ultimately Aldridge changed his mind and went back home.
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Aldridge also talked about his role with the Spurs and how he expects to be booed when he returns to Portland for the first time in the candid interview.
His statements don't offer a complete picture of what went on behind the scenes but at least provide some background into what was going on in his head when he made up his mind. Aldridge seemed to handle the free agency process well, giving teams a shot at making their cases and making his decision based on what was important to him.
Trail Blazers fans will undoubtedly be angry at him for a while, but Aldridge seems to have been up front about his intentions. Ultimately, the only thing that will validate his decision is winning a championship with the Spurs.
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