Aldridge At Center Of Trail Blazers’ Attention … But For How Long?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — For all of the excitement and trepidation that comes with rebuilding and relying on youngsters like Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard to help revitalize the situation in Portland, there is one man, and one man only, in the middle of the mix out there.

LaMarcus Aldridge holds the key to the team’s (immediate) future. His leadership, on and off the court, will have to serve as the main catalyst for a team searching for a new identity with a new coach (Terry Stotts), new young pieces and a brand new sole headliner in the All-Star power forward.

Aldridge showed last season that he was up to task of being the front man for the franchise, taking over a role that had rested largely on the shoulders of Brandon Roy before he retired prior to the start of an abbreviated training camp. Aldridge made his first All-Team and served notice that Kevin Love and Blake Griffin would have company in their quest to claim the crown as next in line in the Western Conference’s proud power forward lineage.

Just how long Aldridge remains alone at the center of all things for the Trail Blazers, however, remains to be seen. He has quality help in HT fave Wesley Matthews and Nic Batum, two of the survivors from the latest franchise restart. Aldridge is completely healed from offseason hip surgery and eager to get this season started.

But he only has two years remaining on his current contract and at 27 at the stage of his career where his physical powers should plateau for at least the next three or four seasons. In a day and age when superstars are aligning themselves in search of championship glory, the Los Angeles Lakers will be on the season-long rock tour this year after Miami did it the previous two years and Boston before them, it’s not unreasonable to ask just how long Aldridge will want to remain the leader of a start-up band.

Our main man Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune broached that very subject with Aldridge as the Trail Blazers opened camp, hunting answers for very pertinent questions:

Will Aldridge stay motivated as the young, inexperienced Blazers fall out of the playoff picture sometime after the All-Star break?

Will he tire of the constant double-teams that will dog his every move in the post?

Will he get frustrated as most of his West teammates in the 2012 All-Star Game — guys such as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Love — play into the postseason?

Might he desire a trade at some point soon?

Maybe he’ll be fine with another rebuilding team.

“I’m here,” he told me after Tuesday’s opening training-camp session. “I’m here to try to win, to try to compete, to get better every night.”

Pundits are predicting a second straight run to the lottery for the Blazers. Does that bother Aldridge?

“That’s normal when you have so many young guys,” he said. “We’re all here, we’re working hard. Anything’s possible.”

Even making the playoffs?

“I can’t make any predictions,” he offered. “If we go out and do the best we can be defensively, then yes we can.”

Aldridge handled the line of questioning the way you’d expect from a player who wisely took his time becoming a team leader. He could set off alarms by questioning the moves of the front office staff and the franchise, but that’s not his style. And Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey will sleep a little better at night this season when he realizes what a luxury a star like Aldridge can be in that particular scenario.

Just because Aldridge believes in his team’s playoff potential right now doesn’t mean the rest of us do or have to. The road to one of those eight playoff spots in the West is going to be brutal for teams with more experienced firepower than the Blazers will show up with for the start of this season.

There have just been so many different arrivals and departures in recent seasons , it’s hard to know exactly who and what you can count on in Portland … outside of Aldridge, Matthews, Batum and perhaps Lillard?


  1. VINCeterriffic says:

    Common guys Garnett is a very versatile bigman, he can guard any one and offensively effective because of the Celtic system, Aldrige should be ok for the C position but defensively it will exghaust him and may affect his offense. He is more suitable for PF position, just like Dirk.

  2. jurat says:

    lamarcus aldrige + de cousin+ wall+ granger+ westbrook= championship ring

  3. Yazzie says:

    the season is going to be a good one we has a ligit shot to be a playoff team this year becasue lillard can play the game and a true point guard so he’ll get the ball where it needs to be to score and with lenoard on the other side of the paint help cant come to double up from him or L.A. can lob it at the rim for a dunk so cant wait to watch RIP CITY rise again

  4. Chester says:

    i disagree laker. garnett had his best season in years playing center. and bosh turned the playoffs when he came back from injury. he will play a lot of 5 this year.

  5. disdatruth114 says:

    I think L.Aldridge is a beast , & is pure legitimacy at his pf position!..As Aldridge is the Portland Trailblazers. While no doubt, Aldridge can play multi positions if asked too!..But being a Philadelphian, & watching the Sixers over the years…It will be a disaster to put him at the Center position…Simply because it does nothing but wastes time using makeshift lineups…In order to win a championship, or even for a team to compete for one..You has got to have guys that solid, & legit at their positions…So Portland has to dig deep in the management skils the next seaon or twol, & decide the best for Aldridge, & the team..Because money isn’t everything when you get older, & have made the money…My point you wear, & tear Aldridge down, will only frustrate him along with the disappoints of continuous disappointments of loosing, & rebuilding the team!…IMO, i think the best move right now that will benefit Aldridge, & all parties involved now, & in the future is…Especially if Portland continues to go with a youth movement!..Trade Aldridge for A.Moultrie, T.Young, & T.Young of the Sixers, so he can preserve his aging playing alongside A.Bynum…If not build this Portland team to be solid, & legit, rather than just for saving purposes!…
    & DIS “DA TRUTH”!…lol & go Portland, & Sixers make the transition.

    • lol... says:

      why does everyone over value the players of the team they support? i just dont get it. you’d think people would eventually learn.

  6. Lakers4Life says:

    To Chester: Garnett and Bosh were only effective at the 5 because of the lack of any sort of 5 for the Heat. They just lobbed the ball to the paint and only Garnett was big enough to catch it. And honestly, when the alternative is Joel Anthony, I think even Earl Boykins can be considered a decent 5.

  7. Daniel says:

    The Blazers have the chance to be one of the most athletic teams in the league once again. Portland seems to have the same plan regardless of the prospects: get a good guard and a center with potential. Damien Lillard and Meyers Leonard will be just that for the Trailblazers, plus Leonard gets to learn from one of the best scorers in the post in Aldridge, plus their styles are pretty similar. lillard will catch on immediately i think, but leonard will take at least two years to fully develop his skills.

    • D Lion says:

      I agree. I think the Blazers will be better than expected, but if nothing else they will be exciting.

      PS- Daniel, you have a great name 😉

  8. Chester says:

    i think the blazers will surprise a few people this season. a starting 5 of c aldridge pf hickson sf batum sg mathews pg lillard is pretty lethal and athletic. the most important factor for me being getting aldridge to buy into playing center. i would just mention how effective garnett and bosh were at the 5 last year.

  9. Joseph_03 says:

    Maybe its best they let Aldrige showcase his talent this season and then decide whether the core of Aldrige, Battum, Lillard and Matthews, are the core they would like to have and try to develop then build around.

    Letsbe honest, Aldrige is a definete all-star however he is not top 10 talent. He will at least need a superstar teammate or a co-equal all-star to get them into title contention. He’s 27 already and by the time the Blazers realize if the potential of Lillard is going to translate into an all-star talent. Aldrige will be on the wrong side of 30 then and will start to decline, which for most big men could be quite steep.

    Best case scenario is that they showcase Aldrige then try to trade up in the draft to get somewhere within the top 3 picks. Because its between those numbers where a real franchise player usually comes from. There will definitely be takers for an all-star big man in his prime, specially one with the skill set of Aldrige who can play the 4 or the 5 given the situation.

  10. Lakers4Life says:

    The Blazers have always had bad luck. It was there when their championship calibre player (walton) was injured and it’s there now when their big 3 which could have been dominant have completely fizzled out. Oden was supposed to be a beast. Roy was a beast and Aldridge…well at least he’s staying with the team which is nice. Let’s hope the franchise doesn’t waste him.
    I also hope their luck doesn’t extend to Lillard. That kid can ball.