After playing for the Portland Trailblazers for nine years, LaMarcus Aldridge entered this off-season as one of the biggest unrestricted free agents available. Courted by more than a half a dozen teams, such as the Heat, Suns, Lakers, Mavericks, Rockets and Spurs, the Texas native announced this weekend he will be joining the San Antonio Spurs next season.
Aldridge, probably the best mid-range big man in the League today, will give the Spurs an extra offensive weapon that can create his own shot. Carrying the majority of the load on offense for the Blazers, he averaged 23.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game last season, while shooting almost 47 percent from the field and 85 percent from the free-throw line.
The Blazers have been building a decent team around Aldridge, and were hoping to keep their core pieces, including point guard Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews, together. However, another disappointing playoff run determined otherwise. An injury-plagued Blazers team lost in the first round to the Grizzlies and it was clear from that point on that Aldridge would look elsewhere in search of an NBA title. They offered Lillard a max contract, but lost their four other starters: Matthews (Mavericks), Batum (Hornets), Lopez (Knicks) and Aldridge (Spurs) all fled, forcing the Portland franchise to start all over again.
Meanwhile, with the signing of Aldridge, the Spurs management pulled it off again and the team is looking to be the main force in the West once more. In order to be able to sign Aldridge, the Spurs cleared some cap space by letting go of Baynes, Splitter and Belinelli, while keeping their core together, re-signing young star Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli will be back for another season to finish their careers in style with what might be the Spurs’ sixth championship in 20 years.