Discussing LaMarcus Aldridge’s freshman year in San Antonio….
It’s been a week of LaMarcus Aldridge being pretty average after a week of him being very dominant. The best thing you can say is he was inconsistent against the Thunder. But is he overrated as a max player? Is that taking the narrative too far?
C.J. Hampshire: Aldridge is an All-Star. He’s a good player, a solid one. But he can’t carry a team. He’s not the face of a franchise. His personality is as appealing as toast. But none of that matters a damn because in big games, he plays small. He is being paid to dominate in a must win game. His performance in game 5 at San Antonio was the Aldridge bio. Weak when it matters.
Mallory Stith-Wheat: Sometimes he looks dazed. He tries hard. It has nothing to do with effort. But champions win the moments. He disappointed in this series. Overrated. L.A. is so not L.A.
Julian Bilick: This is the problem for the Spurs. Aldridge is 30 years old, soon to be 31. He was supposed to be their “answer” when Tim Duncan retired. He is the anti-Duncan. His defensive footwork always gets him into trouble. His offense comes and goes when matched up with someone who specifically is trying to stop him by putting a body on him. Like Michael Jordan once said about Scottie Pippen, “it ain’t easy being me.” Being a max player is hard. Ask Deron Williams.
Brendan Gillespie: Overrated as a max player, yes. But, he still is a good player. He needs a dominant scorer to take the burden. In Portland, he had Brandon Roy and then Damian Lillard. Kawhi Leonard is a spectacular talent, very efficient and strong defensively. But, the Spurs offense is equal opportunity. Every one has a chance. I don’t think that fits Aldridge’s game. He does better in a two-man star iso set.
He’s being judged through the prism of that contract and because it’s the Spurs. Is he…soft?
Mallory: Be careful what you ask for. What did D’Angelo Russell say this season? Even Jesus was criticized. It’s part of it. If you take the money, you have to take the fans overreaction. The problem is, Portland was such a cocoon. But to say he is soft because he can’t be the best player on your team? That’s taking it too far. The mistake in this series was not running everything through Leonard.
C.J.: You don’t know what you don’t know. Playing for titles every year, making a lot of cash, who wouldn’t want that, right? From the outside looking in, it appears perfect. But what you don’t see is what happens when you fail. You have to accept you are going to be hated the moment you make one mistake in a big moment. Aldridge has never had to deal with that level of scrutiny. He’s a nice guy who played in Portland and no one really cared what he did outside of the crazy Rip City locals. Welcome to San Antonio, son. The expectations were never going to line up with the production. When that happens the labels start coming. Soft. Overrated. Small. But don’t get it twisted. He’s not the second coming of Dwight Howard.
Julian: 9 times out of 10 when a player is called soft, it’s an emotional reaction to an underperformance but not reflective of their career. I don’t believe he is soft. He has a lot of Pau Gasol in him though. He doesn’t respond well to physicality. Last night, in that first quarter, he was driven to score and did things you normally don’t see Aldridge do. But then the game got out of hand. He’s never been a go-to player.
Brendan: He hasn’t changed. The Spurs were getting a very good player. But Aldridge has been in the league a decade. What you see is what you get. He played with Brandon Roy and Damian Lillard, two great guards. But he’s never been to a Conference Final. That says a lot about Aldridge. The conventional wisdom was it was Portland and their roster that held him back. And then he comes to the Spurs and it’s the same Aldridge story. So, you have to consider it has a little to do with him.
Why are the Spurs on vacation?
Julian: They can’t manage the speed. Their one young (gifted) player plays at a slow pace. The NBA has changed. 24th in pace isn’t going to get it done. Tony Parker can’t guard Russell Westbrook.
C.J.: Too much athleticism on the Thunder. This was a series in which the basketball gods, as Tony Parker put it, just wasn’t on the Spurs side. Those two late game non-calls were brutal for them. But still, great teams overcome the refs. The Spurs history is that when they are down in a series they don’t come back. When they are down to the Thunder, it is a wrap.
Brendan: I am a big Popovich believer. He has so many reinventions but I don’t see how, particularly with Aldridge, one of the slowest paced players in the NBA the last five years, they keep up in a series with explosive athletes. The Spurs can’t establish their tempo. That did them in.
Mallory: Aldridge is a better player with not-40 year old looking Duncan next to him. With Duncan’s age making his game irrelevant, Aldridge was put in a position to be something he was not.
photo via llananba