There was chemistry on the court but whispers off as two players tried their best to bring their team back to respectability. We thought we would be witnessing the next John Stockton and Karl Malone duo but as one talent began to shine the other looked on as the praise, torch and pressure was lifted from his shoulders and handed to another.
LaMarcus Aldridge was entering the final year on his contract with the Portland Trail Blazers, to the average fan looking in it seemed like a slam dunk that he would resign with a young team that was clearly on the up and up. But he let fans and the media get in his head which caused him to slightly distance himself from the team and hit the market with the sole purpose of looking for an escape due to his wounded ego.
The Los Angeles Lakers looked to be the logical choice as he would have taken the torch from Kobe Bryant but he wanted to win NOW, not rebuild, so off to Texas he went. On paper, the San Antonio Spurs were sure-fire 2016 NBA champs but this is why the game still has to be played. A starting five that featured Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker would not be denied at first glance but while everyone was applauding the unit they missed the fact that two of those players were on the decline.
There were other options but the allure of Pop and Co were too much for the competition. The Spurs finished with the 2nd best record in the league with 67 wins but the playoffs were not as kind as the regular season. Aldridge and Leonard performed well but there was no help from the aging Big 3. For a team that was destined to challenge the Warriors for NBA supremacy they looked more lottery than title contenders. If the Spurs season wasn’t bad enough, poor Aldridge had to watch as his former team and partner Damian Lillard grew up right before the world’s eye.
This was the team he left, left because he had to share the spotlight, left because he thought they didn’t have a chance. He is a sports fan and he might have sat at home or scrolled through the stats sheet and saw what that young, no chance having team was doing without his presence and he must’ve felt sick to his stomach. One veteran team, one young, one contender and one pretender. 67 wins, 44 wins, 3-4 possible Hall of Famers and none so far but yet both faltered in the 2nd round.
Who had the better season? Some may say the Spurs did while others like myself will give that nod to the Blazers. This was to be their lottery year, the year they got a mulligan for the Greg Oden mistake and another possible star to replace Aldridge but along the way they didn’t get that memo. But think back, go back to the end of the 2015 season and all he had to do was swallow his pride and it might have been the Blazers vs the Cavs in the Finals. I know it’s far-fetched but we have seen crazier things happen in the NBA over the years.
As Aldridge gets ready for another season in San Antonio he has to think about the uncertainty of it all. Duncan, Ginobili, Parker and even Pop are on the way out. The roster is not ready for a rebuild and after this season Aldridge will find himself in the same position he was in with the Blazers.