Sometimes, things just aren’t meant to be. That is true of life and also the unpredictable world of professional sports where success is never guaranteed. For LaMarcus Aldridge, it looks as if his time at the San Antonio Spurs has come to an end after six seasons with the franchise. You wouldn’t go as far as saying that the 35-year-old’s time in Texas was unremarkable, but then again, it also didn’t live up to the expectations many had for it.
Now, professional sport is full of expectations that can, from time to time, be somewhat unrealistic and also unfair. But in this case, you can’t help but feel that there has been a degree of underachievement.
Aldridge arrives in San Antonio
Aldridge, you see, had arrived at the Spurs the year after they had won the NBA final in 2014. There was naturally a lot of noise surrounding his arrival in Texas, with the general feeling being that, with Aldrige on board, the Spurs could defend their title. At the very least, Gregg Popovich could use Aldridge to help propel the Spurs to glory in the seasons to come. Fast forward to the present day, and Popovich’s team hasn’t made an NBA final since Aldridge arrived from the Portland Trail Blazers. And, as of the 25th of February, that doesn’t look like changing, as Betway has priced the Spurs at 67/1 to win the 2021 NBA final.
It does feel like this is all going to end rather underwhelmingly for Aldridge when you consider the Spurs’ chances this season. So, what exactly has gone wrong, or is it unfair to lay the blame for the Spurs’ disappointing form over the last six years squarely at the feet of Aldridge?
It, of course, doesn’t make sense to put the Spurs’ last few underachieving seasons down to Aldridge alone, and there is of course a genuine feeling of appreciation towards Aldridge from supporters.
— LaMarcus Aldridge (@aldridge_12) March 24, 2017
The undeniable truth is that it is a team game after all, and no one franchise has a divine right to be NBA champions. Getting to the summit of the NBA is one of the hardest things to do in professional sport and requires a herculean effort from an entire squad to get anywhere close.
The feeling, however, is that Aldridge’s postseason form over the last few campaigns has been poor when the Spurs desperately needed him to show some X factor. That may seem unjust, but that’s the price on the ticket of a $24 million contract a season. You’re expected to deliver the goods when it comes down to the business end of the season, and too often fans have left the AT&T Center in San Antonio feeling a bit short-changed during the times when it mattered the most.
In Aldridge’s defense, there have been times when the seven-time NBA All-Star has succumbed to injury. Most notably was the occasion when Aldridge missed the back end of the 2019 2020 season. Now, when you get into your mid-thirties, you do need a bit of luck as far as staying fit goes in order to keep a match-winning level of performance up. Time spent in between being on the treatment table and the court is never conducive to finding a rich vein of form.
— NBA (@NBA) January 8, 2021
And, in seasons gone when the Spurs have been without Aldridge, they have looked short of star quality. This suggests that perhaps the centre has been a bit unfortunate in terms of picking up injuries at the wrong time and it could have been a case of what might have been.
The end of overtime is in sight
We’ll never know now though, as the curtain is poised to fall on Aldridge’s time at the San Antonio Spurs – and perhaps even the NBA. Although there have been conversations about the 35-year-old making a sensational return to the Portland Trail Blazers, how much credibility that rumour has remains to be seen.
LaMarcus Aldridge will be 36 in the summer and is certainly in the final act of his career. When he does eventually bow out, he will do so as an exceptionally rich man; but you wonder whether he will look back on his time in the NBA once the dust has settled and feel any sort of regret? You hope not because once the curtain comes down it doesn’t go up again, all you can strive to do is make sure you have left everything out there.