LaMarcus Aldridge won’t show you his poker hand.
With the Portland Trail Blazers officially out of the NBA playoffs following their Game 5 loss against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night, any and all attention shifts to his impending free agency. Though the All-Star forward has intimated a desire to re-sign in the past, his case hasn’t seemed so open and shut since the playoffs began. Rumors are out there, in volume, alleging he hasn’t made up his mind. Positing that he could leave Portland. Listing a vast array of suitors that could compel him to leave.
What does it all mean?
Is it overblown?
Is there some truth to it?
Tons of truth to it?
Tell us, LaMarcus! We have to know!
Oh, you won’t? Okay, cool.
From Jason Quick of The Oregonian:
Some on this team are saying they want to stick together.
“I hope we get the same team back,” Batum said.
“I love this team,” Lillard said.
Aldridge, on the other hand, remained elusive.
“I will cross that bridge later on,” Aldridge said. “Right now, I want to be with my teammates and reflect on the good season we had.”
Look, there’s a reason free agency doesn’t take place right now, during the playoffs, on the heels of the heat of battle and playoff exits and postseason ambitions run afoul. In a way, it’s good that Aldridge is done now. If the Blazers had played further into the playoffs, it would have only given him less time to reflect on the situation. It would have given him less time to get over postseason disappointment.
To that end, the Blazers still have to be the favorites to re-sign him. Not only did he verbally commit to signing a new deal last summer, but they can offer him more years and money than any other team, which is especially important now, knowing he won’t be capitalizing on an elevated salary cap next summer.
Mostly, though, where else is he going to sign? Sure, he’ll have options. But which of those options are better than what he has in Portland? The Dallas Mavericks looked just as unimpressive as the Blazers through the first round, and the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks are miles upon miles upon miles away from championship contention. If playing in the Eastern Conference appeals to him, then sure, that’s a selling point. But beyond that inkling, the Blazers only have one threat to truly fear: The San Antonio Spurs.
If they show interest, if they put together a competitive offer, they offer Aldridge the opportunity to latch onto a surviving dynasty, beside Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Patty Mills, perhaps even Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. That’s an opportunity Aldridge, Marc Gasol and anybody else would have to consider.
As for whether the Spurs will show interest, we don’t know. Prevailing chatter, as well as conventional wisdom, says they will. And they probably will. And if they do, the Blazers have a threat on their hands.
If they don’t, well, the always likely scenario—Aldridge re-signing in Portland—simply becomes that much more likely.