Before he signed a contract extension with the Spurs in October, LaMarcus Aldridge was the subject of frequent trade rumors. While it appeared San Antonio was willing to move Aldridge, head coach Gregg Popovich confirmed on Thursday that the big man himself was also in favor of a change of scenery. Asked about Aldridge’s bounce-back 2017/18 performance, Popovich said last night that the turning point was when the 32-year-old requested a trade in the offseason.
“It’s as simple as that,” Popovich said, per Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com. “I said, ‘Whoa, nobody’s ever said that to me before.’ It’s my 20-whatever year, and nobody’s ever said that like, ‘I’m not enjoying this. I’m not confident. I’m not sure you want me here. I want to be traded.'”
According to Popovich, he and Aldridge had some “dinners and meetings” before the season to clear the air and to talk through any issues between the player and team. The Spurs’ head coach accepted responsibility for Aldridge’s unhappiness, admitting he tried to turn the veteran into a different player, which he called “total overcoaching” on his part. By the time Aldridge signed his new contract with the Spurs and the season got underway, everyone was on the same page.
“I was very candid with him,” Popovich said. “I told him, ‘I’d be happy to trade you. You get me a talent like Kevin Durant, and I’ll drive you to the airport. I’ll pack your bags. And I will drive you there, get you on the plane, and get you seated.’ He laughed, you know, that kind of thing. I said, ‘But short of that, I’m your best buddy because you’re here for another year, and you ain’t going nowhere. Because we’re not gonna get for you talent-wise what we would want. So, let’s figure this thing out.’ And we did. That’s what we came to.”
In 41 games this season, Aldridge has averaged 22.6 PPG and 8.6 RPG, his best marks since joining the Spurs in 2015.