The NBA’s Most Anonymous All-Star
One of the more unexpected developments in the NBA this season (to most of us that is) as we near the All-Star break, the young Portland Trail Blazers find themselves right in the thick of the playoff hunt in the West. Despite featuring five key contributors and a paper-thin reserve core, the Blazers have exceeded expectations with a 25-24 record – good for ninth in the Western Conference, just a game back of eighth place.
Leading the way for Portland, and making his second All-Star appearance later this month in Houston, LaMarcus Aldridge continues to play elite-level basketball while carrying this Blazers franchise. Even though Aldridge is widely regarded around the NBA as one of the best power forwards in the game, the 27-year-old still doesn’t get the type of media or fan attention that status likely deserves.
In speaking with players and coaches around the Blazers organization, no one is quite sure why Aldridge doesn’t get much play in the national media.
“It does surprise me,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said. “I know this franchise values him, but for some reason he doesn’t get the recognition or the respect he deserves around the league. He’s a quiet guy, he’s a humble guy. I’m glad at least the people that matter: the coaches, players around the league; he has the respect from them and that’s what’s important.
“Obviously, the franchise is very proud of him earning [an All-Star spot] the last two years. I thought the previous year he was as or more deserving , so he’s established himself as a franchise player and he means a lot to the franchise.”
The only player in the NBA to average over 20 points and nine rebounds per contest so far this season, the Dallas, Texas native has been flat out dominant as the go-to-guy in Portland. With Aldridge taking control over games in the clutch, the Blazers have been one of the best teams in the NBA in terms of closing out tight contests this season.
Spearheading a 5-1 record in overtime and a shiny 9-3 record in games decided by three points or less for Portland this season, it’s mind-boggling to Aldridge as to why he doesn’t get the respect he feels he deserves.
“We were just talking about that, Damian Lillard and I,” Aldridge told HOOPSWORLD. “How I put myself into this position as one of the best big man players but I don’t think anybody is seeing that. But I’ll keep working on it.
“I hope it gets better, I think it’s gotten better, but I don’t think I get treated like that of a two-time All-Star.”
The Blazers locker room doesn’t seem to understand it either. Nicolas Batum, Aldridge’s teammate in Portland over each of the last four seasons, believes his teammate is a top-3 power forward in the game.
“I don’t know,” Batum said of Aldridge’s lack of respect, “He’s as easy-going as they come. But, for me, he’s a top-3 power forward in the league right now. I don’t know another guy with those types of skills and is almost 7-foot. There’s only so many guys that can do that, so he’s top three in the league right now to me. He needs a lot more respect that’s for sure.”
While other NBA superstars like LeBron James or Kevin Durant cleverly do a quality job of marketing themselves through advertisements, that’s not something Aldridge says he concerns himself with. Even though that type of marketing produces the type of national attention that comes along with being a top-NBA player, Aldridge tells HOOPSWORLD that’s not something he concerns himself with.
“No, I don’t think it’s all about that,” Aldridge said of endorsements. “In this league, I think they have favorites. Not the NBA in general but fans have favorites and are more concerned about other people.”
Entering the prime of his NBA career at just 27 years old, there’s no doubt that a player the caliber of Aldridge will continue to get more exposure as the Blazers fight their way back to relevance. It’s easy to forget that just two years ago Portland was a perennial playoff team that had the eventual NBA champion Dallas Mavericks on the ropes in their first round series in 2011. Aldridge was a huge part of that iteration of the Blazers and will undoubtedly be crucial in Portland’s quest to get back to being contenders in the stacked West.
The good news for Blazers fans, as Aldridge continues to rack up All-Star appearances, it’s likely only a matter of time before Rip City’s star finds himself in the same category as other greats around the league.