Sunday, February 26, 2012

Aldridge had thoughts of leaving Portland

Since the days of Bill Walton it seems like the Portland Trail Blazers have been cursed by injuries to their stars. Either injuries or bad apples in the locker room. The latest blow to the Blazers has been Greg Oden's latest setback trying to recover from knee surgery, which will probably end his Blazers career and put his NBA career in serious jeopardy.

There was once a time when the Blazers were thought to be an up and coming force in the NBA. I was one of those believers. They had Brandon Roy, the team leader and All-Star. LaMarcus Aldridge, a big man with tons of potential. Then there was Greg Oden, who was thought to be the next dominant big man in the NBA. With the three young guns on board. Aldridge felt out of place and low in the pecking order behind Roy, Oden, and Andre Miller. So Aldridge was at a point where he thought leaving Portland would be better for his career.

"I was the last of the Big Three," Aldridge said, referring to his importance. "I even remember Coach telling me that the team is really good, but you are the glue," referring to a term for a role player who does the little things to keep the team together. "And I was like, 'Aw man, I'm the glue?' I mean, that's not a bad role, but I saw myself being so much more." 

Aldridge is now the cornerstone of the franchise since the Blazers lost Roy to retirement (bad knees) and Oden to chronic knee problems. But Aldridge had doubts about being in Portland and him being an All-Star if Roy and Oden remained healthy.

"No. No. No. I wouldn't," Aldridge said. "I mean, I would go as far to ask would I even still be here?"

"I probably would have ended up signing somewhere else," Aldridge said. "Think about it. I was the last option out of those guys, so they both would have gotten max deals, and they wouldn't have given me my deal (five years, $62.5 million). They only signed me because I was the only low post threat left on the team. If they had Greg, they don't give me the number I wanted, and I'm somewhere else. I think about it all the time. I wouldn't even be here had Greg not gotten hurt." 

Now Aldridge holds no grudges and wished the two had stayed healthy to see how things would've turned out. But there is no doubt that he might've been forced to leave to advance his career to the level it is now. Aldridge is happy in Portland and not because he's option number one. He just wanted a bigger role on the team, but he happened to get it because the other two stars were felled by injury. I'm sure Aldridge would like to rewrite the script but if the Blazers could get a few pieces to surround Aldridge they could be thought of as a contender once again.  

Is Saunders trying to line himself up for the Golden Gophers job?

To some in the Twin Cities, Minnesota Golden Gophers head basketball coach, Tubby Smith, might be a disappointment. When Smith arrived in Minneapolis, there were some hoping that he could recreate the magic that Clem Haskins had during his run at Minnesota. Instead there has been mediocrity that could land Smith on the proverbial hot seat with two years left on his contract.

Flip Saunders is an ex-NBA coach and Minnesota alum. Since he is unemployed he has a lot of idle time on his hands. So in an interview with KFAN's Dan Barreiro, it almost sounds like Saunders is doing a bit of politicking on his behalf for the Minnesota job. 

When answering questions about why college coaches have failed in the NBA, Saunders unintentionally sounded as if he wanted the job.

"One thing I’ve always said a lot is college coaches don’t always translate to the NBA. But yet guys have been college, gone to the NBA, that maybe fail in the NBA even their experience when they go back to college, they always say they’re much better coaches in college after they’ve been to the NBA."

After Barreiro jumped on the reply, Saunders back-pedaled, saying " No, no, no, no don’t throw that out there. I’m just saying if you look at guys like Larry Brown, [who] went from a pro coach and then goes back to UCLA and Kansas, has a lot of success; you look at [John] Calipari, as far as [Rick] Pitino. And if you talk to a lot of those guys, you’ve got to realize you spend 24/7 on basketball; it’s the purest you can be from a standpoint of basketball that there is as far as just working on basketball and just working on different plays, different schemes. So when you’re doing that, and you’re playing so many games, 110 games a year when you’re in the playoffs, those are the things that are going to make you better as a coach because the more situations you see the better you’re going to get."

I get what he was saying, but Saunders could've used a better choice of words. As much as I dislike Saunders as a coach, I don't think he was trying to get a jump on the Minnesota gig. I think he might be content in his unemployment right now and would like a few years away from the game.