LaMarcus Aldridge knew he was going to be a Spur for good once he realized he had slept peacefully through the night last Saturday.
"I went back and forth a lot," Aldridge explained during his introductory press conference in San Antonio. "I knew the night before I tweeted it [Saturday morning]. I was just like ‘I'm going to sleep with it on my mind.' When I first thought that they were my first option I called Portland and told them I wasn't coming back, so I talked to (GM) Neil (Olshey) and (owner) Paul (Allen) that night before I went to sleep, so I could have my mind at ease. I went to sleep that night thinking ‘I'm going to be a Spur' and when I woke up I was still comfortable with it, I didn't freak out in the middle of the night screaming ‘No!" so I ended up sticking with it."
In light of recent free agent news concerning another star big man who's a native Texan, the part about making sure to call his previous employer was particularly telling and an indication that the Spurs newest star won't have too many problems adjusting to their culture. The three themes the former Blazer hit on repeatedly were how excited he was to be playing with his idol Tim Duncan, how comfortable Gregg Popovich and General Manager R.C. Buford made him feel and how the Spurs were a first-class organization with a long winning tradition. Aldridge explained that he wasn't set out to leave Portland for just any situation and only the combination of factors the Spurs had going for them --being a native Texan was a big part of it-- made such a move possible.
Aldridge did admit however --much to Buford's mock dismay-- that he had second thoughts about leaving Portland.
"When you make a such a big decision you're never going to be 100 percent right away," he said. "Leaving the organization I was with for nine years, that I had roots in, that I'm embedded in their history, it's never easy to leave. There were moments where I did waver on coming here because I was leaving and going on to something new, but talking to R.C. more, talking to Pop more, those guys made me more comfortable and made me like home and made me feel safe to taking this leap of faith."
Aldridge explained that the effort and commitment Duncan personally showed, not only in taking time out of his vacation to fly to Los Angeles along with the rest of the Spurs contingent but also in calling him several times before that, surprised him and went a long way toward making him feel wanted.
"It's going to be fun for me because everything you hear about Tim is first class," Aldridge said of playing alongside Duncan. "You hear that he works hard, he tries to get better every year even though he's done unimaginably (well) as far as winning championships and playing at a high level. Even though he's so old, it's going to be unbelievable for me to try to learn a few things from him and try to get better while I'm with him and try to make his life easier and vice versa, so I'm looking forward to the challenge of playing with him."
Probably the first thing Aldridge is gonna learn from Duncan is that he doesn't like being reminded of his age.
It's well-known by now that during the recruitment process of Aldridge that Pop took the liberty of flying to California for a second face-to-face meeting last Friday afternoon. Did the former Longhorn need reassurances about his impending decision?
"It wasn't about reassurances, I think it was just that Pop is a great person and I think he values that face time and having that human touch, so I think he wanted to come back down and talk face-to-face, not talk over the phone, I think he felt like things would be better face-to-face, so he came back down and I thought when came back down that all of our conversations were great."
Unsurprisingly, there wasn't much fluff in Pop's pitch, according to Aldridge.
"You've seen TNT interviews with him, right?" Aldridge joked. "It was like that but a little bit nicer. Pop isn't going to tell you sweet stories or try to make up things. He's a very honest person. He's very caring but he's not going to sweet-talk you. That came across clear in the meeting. He had good things to say but our meeting wasn't an hour of just him sweet-talking me. It was basically just talking basketball."
Who knows, maybe Popovich's bluntness was refreshing for a star big-man who had all these other teams falling over themselves trying to flatter him.
Aldridge revealed that he wasn't conflicted about passing up bigger markets and supposed promotional opportunities for the Spurs -- "Other than Blake Griffin and Anthony Davis I don't see a lot of power forwards getting endorsements or making much money off the court, so I wouldn't say I passed that up," he replied -- and said that what's inside the gym matters more to him than what surrounds it.
"As far as a big market, I've never been the guy who's needed that, I've always just been about winning and knowing I have a good organization and I don't see too many organizations better than this one," he said.
Two major reasons the Spurs have been so successful for so long have been a pair of Hall-of-Fame big-men in David Robinson and then Duncan. Having the burden of following in their footsteps can be daunting for anyone, even a talent like Aldridge.
"I'm not looking to try to be David Robinson, to be Tim Duncan, those guys are rare, they only come around once every 20 years or so," Aldridge demurred, before Buford quickly quipped, "But that's what we're expecting though."
Hey, no pressure.
At least he'll have a year (or two?) to play with Duncan before making the transition of replacing him. Aldridge said he doesn't expect for there to be a difficult adjustment process in that regard because there's been a steady cast of characters beside the Spurs legend these past 18 seasons.
"I see myself fitting in well," he said. "They've shown over the years that they can plug in any guy in this system and have him perform at a high level, so I think my life is going to be easier in this system, I'm going to get easier shots. I think Tim is going to help me and vice versa and that my transition into the offense is going to be easy."
Though he rested easy after committing to the Spurs, Aldridge said he had difficulty sleeping after making the decision for an altogether different reason. He needed to pick a new jersey number, or so he thought. His familiar No. 12 was already up in the rafters at the AT&T Center, having been retired for Bruce Bowen's contributions.
Bowen made another one Thursday, "un-retiring" the number to welcome Aldridge into the fold.
"I'm going to call him and I'm going to thank him because he didn't have to do that," Aldridge said. "I'm very honored that he wanted to do that. I'm very honored the organization would even ask him for it. He's loved here. I don't want to cause any friction by wearing his number. He gave me his blessing and I'm very thankful for it because I was having a headache and I wasn't sleeping much having to pick a new number. I was going through new numbers and it just wasn't fitting right so I really wasn't sleeping."
Fitting right with the Spurs shouldn't be too much of an issue. Now all Aldridge has to do is cause opponents some restless nights.