In an in-depth feature for Vice Sports, Michael Pina profiled reticent Spurs star LaMarcus Aldridge, who suggests that he’s “probably one of the most misunderstood people” in the NBA. As Aldridge explains, he isn’t overly fond of new environments or being around a lot of new people, so he has a “little circle of three or four people that I’m close to” and can come off as standoff-ish to those who don’t know him.
Aldridge’s personality was believed to have played a part in his departure from Portland, and at times during the 2017 offseason, it looked like a departure from San Antonio was in the cards as well. However, a sitdown between Aldridge and head coach Gregg Popovich helped smooth things over, and the Spurs big man is currently enjoying one of the best seasons of his career.
Pina’s piece is worth checking out in full, but we’ve pulled a few of Aldridge’ more notable quotes about his meeting with Popovich, the contract extension he signed with the Spurs, and his history with former Trail Blazers teammate Damian Lillard. Let’s dive in…
On Aldridge’s meeting with Popovich and his reported trade request:
“To have a heart-to-heart with a coach about me not being able to be myself … I felt like I had to have that conversation. It was like, ‘This has to happen.’ It wasn’t about being nervous, it was about going about it the right way, making sure it was professional. Making sure I respected everything about him and the organization. I feel like the way I went about it and how I communicated my feelings, he listened to me. It was about figuring out how to do it in the right way so he doesn’t think I’m some arrogant punk just trying to cause problems.
“I think a lot got lost in translation (in media reports about his trade request). I didn’t go and say ‘Hey, I want out.’ It was like, ‘I can’t be the player you want me to be, so let me help you get that person because I respect you and the organization so much.’ That’s how it really went, but people took it and twisted it.”
On whether he doubted that he’d still be with the Spurs at this point:
“I knew some work had to be done. I wouldn’t say I doubted it, but I knew a lot of things had to be worked on and I took my responsibility and I went home and got healthy and worked hard and made sure I came back with the right mentality. Pop and the organization then did their thing to try and let me be myself. So I wouldn’t say I doubted it, but I knew a lot of things had to be done. I knew it was going to be tough.”
On how he ended up signing a contract extension with the Spurs last fall:
“[Agent Jeff Schwartz] was like, ‘They might think I’m bats**t crazy, but I’m gonna call them.’ I was like, ‘Go ahead.’ He made the call just to see if they were interested, and they were taken aback. But I think they could see in my body language and my demeanor that I was happier. I felt more comfortable. Both sides went back and forth until they got it done.”
On his relationship with Damian Lillard:
“I would say him and I have learned more about each other since I left that would’ve helped us when I was there, so I’ve learned from that and I’m trying to be better and not worry if I come off a certain way, because I feel like when people know who I am as a person, they know I have no ill will. I’m more reserved, so I didn’t want to come off as trying to stifle his shine. I just got back in the corner and let him do his thing … I feel like if him and I communicated as much then as we do now, then things would’ve been totally different.”