We're entering an unprecedented time in Spurs history. Just about every national NBA media member agrees that they've already "won" free agency, which is weird. I suspect that Gregg Popovich will try to downplay their off-season in his next public speaking engagement, explaining that nobody wins anything in July except perhaps soccer players. I don't foresee the Spurs engaging in "Yes we did," shenanigans, although it would be fun to hear Manu ask Tim, "Hey TD, how many times do you think the vein in Pop's head will turn purple because of something Danny did?"
Not one, not two, not three...
Undoubtedly it's been a dream off-season. Every short-term goal has been checked off in a week, and then some. The addition of David West in particular seems gluttonous, redundant and an embarrassment of riches, to the point where we should feel guilty or something.
My team is gonna beat your team so badly. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.*
The losses of Tiago Splitter, Cory Joseph, Marco Belinelli and Aron Baynes, while lamentable, were also telegraphed and necessary. LaMarcus Aldridge is obviously an upgrade over Splitter, while the other three guys earned nice contracts for themselves elsewhere.
Still, I can't help myself. This seems too easy. I keep thinking "What's the catch?" There has to be a catch, right?
Basketball-wise, I don't have any serious concerns regarding Aldridge. Jesus explained why he'll be a good fit, as have others here and here. Sure, maybe the Spurs will take a few too many long twos now and maybe Aldridge won't move the ball as quickly as the coaches will prefer. There's months and months to iron those wrinkles out. I'm more worried about how the Spurs will fill the rest of the roster. They need a third wing, a center and a third point guard, in that order.
My worry with Aldridge is whether he will fit the Spurs culture.
You probably read the same columns I did the past few days, and a couple of them paint Aldridge in something less than a flattering light. Jason Quick of The Oregonian in particular, in a piece that read like the ramblings of a Damian Lillard fanboy, took the torch to Aldridge with the hottest of flames, while USA Today's Sam Amick had a slightly more balanced, nuanced recounting.
Among the litany of character red flags that Aldridge allegedly committed:
Holding up the team bus in Memphis before a playoff game
Flying home on a separate flight from the team
Not being best of buds with former Blazer Brandon Roy
Ditto current Blazer Lillard
Demanding top billing over Lillard in all team-based promotions
Habitually declining to do promotional spots when they were offered to him
Growing jealous and bitter once those promotions increased Lillard's profile
A fondness for MRI machines
Apparently lying about wanting to be the "greatest Blazer" ever or whatever
Disliked the idea of paying state income taxes because he's an ingrate
Favors obnoxiously large headphones
Loved the final episode of Lost**
* * *
The plane thing has been confirmed, but we don't know about the rest. They're probably all true though. For what it's worth Dave Deckard over at the fabulous Blazers Edge disputes many of the harsher claims against Aldridge and his summation of the events that led to Aldridge's departure kind of makes Portland General Manager Neil Olshey look like a bit of a tool.
I won't lie, there is concern. Even if Quick comes off like a jilted lover, Amick is a national writer with, one would assume, no skin in the game. What's in it for him to throw stones at Aldridge on his way out the door, besides the narrative and the clicks?
Deckard hinted in his chat with J.R. Wilco that it's as simple as Alick's sources being team-based and not Aldridge-based.
But hey...have you read the Portland papers and the national media getting their feed from the Blazers? Apparently you're getting an ungrateful, lying rat bastard who's socially maladjusted and doesn't like other teammates getting more credit than he. 9 years in Portland and not a peep about this. Who knew???
I'll offer this much, without knowing Aldridge at all: Quick's portrayal of him as a soft hypochondriac doesn't jibe with the player who played through a serious thumb injury, forgoing surgery in the process. Aldridge re-aggravated the injury in late March and no one would've blamed him for shutting it down right then, since Matthews was lost for the season by then anyway. Plus, Aldridge had his future to consider, since his contract was up and all. Instead, he soldiered on and played.
As for the other stuff, the bit about caring about promotion and billing and all that, well Aldridge definitely picked the right club if that matters to him. Once Tim Duncan retires (in 2022 or so) the faces of the franchise will be Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, and the latter regards cameras and microphones the way I do clowns and mayonnaise. If our new star wants pub, I don't imagine that Leonard will stand in his way.
It could be that Aldridge is a sullen, moody diva who's impossible to please. Maybe he's the kind of person who just wears you out incrementally, over days, weeks and months, to the point where you dread being in the same room as him after a while. If so, the Spurs can call JRW for advice on how to deal with somebody like that -- he certainly puts up with enough of it from me.
But I am willing to give Aldridge the benefit of the doubt. Yes, it's possible that he's history's greatest monster. Somehow I think PATFO would've sniffed that kind of thing out when they were doing their homework on him. Duncan, Leonard, Tony Parker and Patty Mills wouldn't have interrupted their vacations to recruit Aldridge in Los Angeles if they didn't have a sense that he'd fit in the locker room.
What I care about is that signing Aldridge played a part in convincing Duncan and Ginobili to stick around a while longer and getting Pop to agree to coach for the remainder of his contract. Aldridge has already earned plenty of good will for those reasons alone. I wouldn't be concerned about him until there's a concrete reason.
(* Not really sorry)
(** Not really)