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Spurs' Aldridge gets down to business vs. Lakers

Forward getting 'more comfortable' in role after 24-point effort

POSTED: Dec 12, 2015 4:23 PM ET

By Fran Blinebury

BY Fran Blinebury

NBA.com

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Lakers vs. Spurs

LaMarcus Aldridge scores 24 points and grabs 11 rebounds to lead the Spurs past the visiting Lakers, 109-87.

— When it came time last summer for the Lakers to make a move for free agent LaMarcus Aldridge, they went with a fast, hard push.

Maybe in the wrong direction.

The Lakers were the first team to meet with the four-time All-Star and word quickly came out that the sit-down did not go so well because there simply wasn't enough talk about basketball.

A few days later, Aldridge chose to move from Portland to the Spurs and on Friday night gave the Lakers plenty to talk about.

Aldridge scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and did not play the fourth quarter in the Spurs 107-89 win over the Lakers on Friday night.

"I'm getting into a rhythm now and feeling more comfortable," Aldridge said. "I'm starting to feel like myself."

The Spurs keep cruising along with the second-best record in the NBA, while the Lakers are now 3-20 and left to wonder how things might look if they'd have landed Aldridge to be the key cog in their offensive attack.

"It is a big what-if," said Lakers coach Byron Scott.

Scott said the Lakers received the same feedback after their first meeting with Aldridge last summer and changed their strategy when given a second chance.

"The second meeting was just myself and (general manager) Mitch (Kupchak)...It was all basketball," Scott said. "I think the first presentation, I think we probably looked at it more as a business presentation more than basketball and that's probably where we made our mistake."

Right from the start, the Spurs' approach that eventually landed Aldridge to a four-year, $84-million contract couldn't have been more different than L.A.'s.

"We don't try to convince people, very honestly," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "I think it's overblown, like we're going to have some kind of salesman deal. We tried to sell Jason Kidd (2003) and it didn't work. We had mariachis and everything. We had all kinds of stuff and after that I decided never again. If they come, they come. If they don't, I don't care.

"It's as simple as that, especially for a guy that's been in the league for nine years. You know what he can do. You know what he can't do. You know what you like. You know what you don't like. Whatever it might be.

"But more importantly, he knows who you are and he knows what team he would like to go to for whatever reason. So everything is pretty much out there on the table. If a guy had been in the league for a split second and then he had to make some decisions, it's different. But he's seen a lot. He's been around a long time and we just did the polite thing. We met with him. Our guys talked to him. He talked to us and asked a few questions, he and his agents and that was that."

Aldridge came into Friday's game averaging 15.4 points, lowest since his rookie season. He's also struggled with his shot, making a career-low 45.5 percent. But the Spurs aren't making a peep of complaint.

"He's been great," Popovich said. "It's a totally new system. When you're playing with a whole group of new players, it takes time to understand where your place is. Sometimes I think he's deferred too much because he's trying to fit in and usually that's the right thing to do when you enter an organization. Any of us who has a new job defers in the beginning and tries to fit."

Aldridge came out started the game as if his jersey was on fire, hitting 7-for-10 from the field for 14 points.

"That's the LaMarcus we need all the time," said forward David West. "We need him being aggressive, demonstrative, confident and just playing his game. Nothing else matters. Just the game."

It's the point the Lakers had hammered home the hard way as a result of their meeting that went the wrong way.

"Yeah, I think we found out from a great player that he was more interested in the basketball, the on the court stuff, than anything else," Scott said.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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