Aldridge, who spent his first nine seasons in Portland, remains second on the team’s career scoring list, with Lillard likely to pass him soon. They had a strained relationship during their three years as teammates that was caused by a sense of awkwardness rather than any specific incident. With Aldridge as an established veteran and Lillard as a high lottery pick who was billed as the team’s future star, they never figured out how to relate to one another. The resulting tension played a role in Aldridge’s decision to leave in free agency in 2015.
Jamal Crawford eventually took on the role as peacemaker, encouraging Lillard and Aldridge to reach out to one another. Their relationship has improved to the point that Aldridge is considering a reunion.
“You never know,” he said. “But of course, if we had a better relationship, it changes the whole outlook of how it went. It’s sad that not talking like we do now could have changed history. But everything happens for a reason. He has flourished in that role, and I keep telling him I’m going to come back and finish there. That’s something him and I have talked about — playing together again.”
Aldridge returning to Portland is unlikely to happen soon. He is signed through the 2020/21 season, making $50MM over the next two years. He has put together back-to-back All-Star appearances and is the second-leading scorer on a Spurs team that has risen to sixth in the West, so there’s no reason for San Antonio to put him on the trading block.
Aldridge will be nearly 36 when he hits free agency in the summer of 2021, so he may decide that’s when he wants to to end his career in Portland. He admits he handled the situation with Lillard poorly and wouldn’t mind returning to the Blazers to make amends.
“I didn’t want to make him think I was stifling his growth, or have a mindset that I was hating on him, so I didn’t say anything to him,” Aldridge said. “That was the wrong approach, because he told me he would have liked guidance and a big brother.”