LA: Was this the game of your life?
HOUSTON – LaMarcus Aldridge is fed up. He’s at his wit’s end. Every summer he works his ass off to become a better player in order to put the Portland Trail Blazers on a grander stage, yet nobody notices.
Sure, he’s appreciated and acknowledged in the Portland market and for the most part, when discussing who’s the best power forward in the game, his name receives mention. He’s at least made it that far.
He doesn’t outlet like Kevin Love, who is on vacation, or dunk ferociously like Blake Griffin. The three-time All-Star just gets it done in a non-polarizing way that includes a plethora of turnaround jumpers and sweeping hooks.
Although Aldridge can’t fathom why his talents are often taken for granted, he says it still gets to him at times, but he’s using the slights to take it out on the competition.
“It used to get to me more,” Aldridge admitted. “There was a point when I would let it bother me. But now I know who I am as a player and a person and nobody can tell me I’m not the best at my position. I think everybody has to believe they’re the best at what they do. If you don’t, then you shouldn’t be playing this game.”
The 6-11 forward is not the most engaging athlete. He prefers to keep to himself with a very small circle. He has an eccentric, humorous personality, but seldom allows anyone to observe it, which hurts his marketability.
“I’m a basketball player,” Aldridge says. “That’s my job.”
Most NBA writers, who revealed their ballots ahead of the NBA release, when they made their selections for the All NBA Team, left Aldridge’s name off of every single team.
This is a guy who is fresh off of posting career numbers in points (23.2), rebounds (11.1) and free throw percentage (82 percent) with the addition of leading a team to an unexpected 54 wins, 22 up from last year’s team.
Still, the disrespect continues.
“Yeah, I’ve seen some of the [All NBA Team] votes,” Aldridge said as he chuckled in disbelief. “It’s crazy. I’ve been dealing with this my entire career. I’m just going to continue using it as motivation. It’s gotten me this far.”
Sunday night, Aldridge poured in a franchise record 46 points and 18 rebounds in a 122-120 overtime win over the Houston Rockets in Game 1 to take homecourt advantage away. The level of focus and concentration Aldridge had pasted to his face before the game was like anything I’ve seen from him in my four years covering the team.
The world took notice of Rip City and Aldridge as a leader and superstar. There was no stopping him last night. He did whatever he wanted to do on the court and there was absolutely nothing Houston could offer to slow him down.
“He really brought it,” Damian Lillard told CSNNW.com after scoring 31 points and pulling down a career-high nine rebounds in his playoff debut. “You could tell that he was on a mission. I haven’t seen him in that way before.”
How long will it take for Aldridge to get his just due? He’s eight years in now. Maybe he doesn’t want the praise just yet. It’s obviously benefitting his performances. This is the LaMarcus Aldridge everyone hoped he’d become. He has filled out nicely into one hell of a player.
But he isn’t satisfied. Not right now. He wants your respect. He says he still has something to prove, and he’s not aborting that quest until mission is accomplished.
“I haven’t won a championship. I haven’t been the best player in the world so of course I still feel like I got something to prove,” he said. “I think eventually my body of work will show people where I am at in this league. In time.”
And no better place to show folks than the NBA Playoffs.