Will he stay or will he go?
The saga began around draft time when it was revealed by the Daily Herald’s Mike McGraw that LaMarcus Aldridge wanted out of Portland. McGraw noted that the big man had a desire to play for the Chicago Bulls, which opened the floodgates to the Portland media.
Following McGraw’s initial report, The Oregonian’s Jason Quick recapped a discussion he had with Aldridge near the end of the season. The forward said almost all the right things regarding his happiness, but the tone was that of a player who was frustrated with the season—not to mention the queries coming from the media.
Quick also mentioned that Aldridge thought the city of Portland was too small and too boring, and that he was irritated by people making assumptions. He even went on to say, “That’s why I hate being in Portland,” when Quick asked him about not renewing sponsorships and adding a clause to his contract that will exempt him from fees if traded.
Flash forward from the draft to the Las Vegas Summer League and you’ll find the first real dialogue between the Blazers and Aldridge’s camp. CSNNW’s Chris Haynes reported that Aldridge’s representatives met in a Vegas hotel lobby with GM Neil Olshey to discuss trade scenarios.
Aldridge, of course, refuted any rumors that were floating around at the time, which, in his defense, is all he can do to protect his own image.
I guess we making up stuff now huh….. Been in Dallas for going on two weeks. Smh
— Lamarcus Aldridge (@aldridge_12) July 18, 2013
Once a story like this gets loose, more than just fans take notice. The wheels begin to spin for general managers around the league, and the star player on the block officially becomes available to the highest bidder.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Golden State Warriors proposed a trade of David Lee and Brandon Rush for Aldridge. Portland was quick to deny the deal, but it began to spark the question: What is Aldridge’s value on the current market?
We may not know exactly what Portland can get for Aldridge until a deal is reached, but what we do know at this point is which players are unavailable. In Haynes’ report, it was noted that Joakim Noah, Kevin Love, Al Horford, Blake Griffin and Anthony Davis are all untouchable in deals surrounding the 28-year-old All-Star.
As much as fans don’t want to admit it, it’s easy to empathize with Aldridge in this situation. He’s in the prime of his career, he’s never made it past the first round of the playoffs and he’s watched this team rebuild more times than any star hopes for during the course of a career.
Then again, taking a shot at the city (too small, too boring) isn’t going to sit well with any true Portlander.
To Aldridge’s credit, this is a far different situation than we’ve seen with players such as Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul. The Blazers’ star has not demanded a trade, and he’s yet to make a mockery out of a situation that should be kept behind closed doors.
That said, like the players mentioned above, Aldridge will eventually gain leverage, and if he’s smart, he’ll use it wisely.
Portland recognizes that Aldridge has the final say in where he ends up, but it also realizes that he’s locked into a contract for two more seasons. The team can wait this thing out as long as it wants, which is why the asking price has been so high.
If the Blazers wait too long, that’s when no intelligent franchise will be willing to sacrifice its future without a long-term deal in place. There’s a fine line between waiting for the right deal and waiting too long, and the Blazers need to test the market before they cross over to the latter.
While we may not know how this ordeal concludes, we do know one thing: The Trail Blazers sure know how to keep things interesting.
For better or for worse, Rip City produces storylines each offseason. It’s been said that Portland is a fish bowl when it comes to its most prominent figures, and the fact is that those words ring true every summer.
The question in all of this becomes whether or not the Blazers deal Aldridge before he’s given the chance to leave in 2015. If they do, the next question becomes: Can they get equal value without sacrificing the immediate future?
The answers have yet to be seen, but rumors will keep this story fresh for the next two years. Don’t expect the Blazers to give Aldridge away for nothing, but don’t be shocked, either, if the team’s most accomplished player is out the door for the next era of Trail Blazers basketball.