What a difference a year makes, this time last year San Antonio Spurs Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge missed the All-Star game and was in the middle of his worst statistical season since his rookie season.
Now fast forward to this season and Aldridge is once again an NBA All-Star, has his name consistently thrown in with the best frontcourt players in the league and more importantly is carrying the Spurs while franchise cornerstone Kawhi Leonard rests various injuries. Who would have thought when the Spurs season ended at the hands of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, it would be Aldridge, not Leonard representing the Spurs on one of the league’s biggest stages.
“It feels good to be here as it has been a lot of work during the season on both sides, and I feel way more comfortable than last season and I’m playing my game,” Aldridge said during his NBA All-Star media day session. “Right now, I’m in the moment being on this stage with my peers and some guys I’m cool with, but this is something when I’m done playing I’ll look back on and think about how cool it was to be here. I’ll admit – last year not being here after coming five consecutive years was weird, so to be back at the All-Star game you have a better appreciation and don’t take it for granted.”
In typical Spurs form, Aldridge, unlike most of his peers was very content to be in the background and keep to himself instead of doing everything to his expand his brand which is what most All-Stars from LeBron to Al Holford do in today’s NBA society.
As far as the game itself goes, Aldridge, who sources said was one of the last players picked in a secret draft two weeks ago, got minimum burn by only playing four minutes in Sunday’s game of stars. Despite playing the least minutes in the game and being the only All-Star not to score, the Spurs forward was very happy to have a seat to one of the best pickup games you’ll see.
“I was happy to be relaxing tonight, and it was fun to be in this type of atmosphere and just hang out,” Aldridge said after Sunday’s game. “I told coach I didn’t want to play much and just wanted to get a little burn and relax and everyone understood and respected my wishes.”
With All-Star weekend in the history books, Aldridge and the Spurs shift their focus toward closing out the regular season strong in their final 23 games. Unlike a lot of franchises, the Spurs are way more concerned with how they are playing down the stretch run over their final seeding.
Which begs the question, will things change for Aldridge who has morphed into the No. 1 option with Leonard gone once the former Finals MVP permanently comes back to the lineup?
“I’ll be the same person. He has the comeback and will play how he plays and I have to be who I am now for us to have a chance to win it,” Aldridge said. “It’s about having a system and “Pop” has a system which keeps us top 5 in the league every year. We got to get Kawhi back as we are trying to let him get healthy so that he can come back himself which will allows us to make a run.”