Q+A: LaMarcus Aldridge
SLAMonline catches up with the 2012 Olympic Finalist.
by Tracy Weissenberg / @basketballista
In these last few years, the Trail Blazers have dealt with career and franchise-altering injuries that will linger as unknown potential and a vision that never got to play out as planned.
This season, Brandon Roy announced his medical retirement, as his reign as the face of the franchise had finally been halted by chronic knee problems. While Roy, picked sixth in the 2006 Draft, quickly made a name for himself after arriving in Portland, the No. 2 pick in the Draft was only beginning to lay his own foundation that same year.
While LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t garner the same attention as his draft classmate during their rookie seasons, he was content to find his role and adjust it as necessary. And now, with Portland depending on him to be the nightly closer, he is ready.
SLAM: Congratulations on being named a finalist for the 2012 US Olympic Team. What does it mean to you to represent the team and get a chance to play?
LaMarcus Aldridge: It means a lot, you know, it’s a big honor. I’m definitely hoping I make the final cut but I’m looking forward to the challenge of competing with that team and going over there.
SLAM: What has the transition in your role been like from your rookie season to now?
LA: Wow, yeah, you know I went from being like Robin—trying to be Robin with Brandon Roy—to being Batman. From not really looked at as a closer of games to having to close the game, having to lead the team. It’s like day and night.
SLAM: Did you mentally have to tell yourself one day that you have to take over scoring sometimes and close out games?
LA: Now, it’s every night.
SLAM: When did it click?
LA: It clicked last year. In Dallas last year, that’s when I started to play better. Brandon went out because his knee started hurting, and in that game, the offense was kind of stagnant and coach was like, “We’re going to come through you.” And I think that game is when it clicked, just like me being more dominant offensively.
SLAM: Everybody talks about injuries when they talk about the Blazers. What’s it like for the players there every year to play with guys in and out of the lineup and to make those adjustments?
LA: It’s tough, but I think we’ve kind of gotten used to it now. That’s not a good thing, but I think we’ve gotten used to having guys in and out. I think that we have a lot of talented guys that want to play so it makes it a little bit easier on us.
SLAM: Many are talking about you as an All-Star this year, and a lot of people wanted you to make the team last year and the year before. Do you look at that as some validation or are you just good with your game on the court and then anything else is extra?
LA: I just try to lead on the court and I think anything else is extra. If I make the All-Star Game, that’s definitely going to be big for me, you know that’s been one of my goals, so I’d definitely be happy with that. But after last year, I’m not taking it as I should be in. After last year, not getting in, I’m not going to believe I’m in ‘til I’m in.
SLAM: You played with Andre Miller, who really just gets the game on and off the court.
LA: Yeah, he does.
SLAM: I know it wasn’t that long, but what was it like being a teammate of his?
LA: It was great. He’s definitely basketball savvy, he knows the game very well. He makes the game easier for the big man. I think that was my easiest year offensively because he was so smart and so good with the ball. If teams tried to double team me, he would tell me where to go. If teams tried to front me, he’d throw it to the rim. We led the League in lobs last year because he’s so smart and he’s such a good passer so I’m definitely going to miss playing with him.
SLAM: Off the court as well, he just gets what the game is about. Did you talk to him a lot?
LA: He’s a pro, on and off the court. He’s always watching film, he’s always trying to get better. If he sees something that you can get better at, he’s always trying to tell you or show you.