Offseason Chat: LaMarcus Aldridge
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LeMarcus Aldridge had an individual year to celebrate, averaging 21.1 points and career highs of 9.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game in his seventh season in the league, all with the Portland Trail Blazers.
He was the only power forward to average over 21 and 9 this year and earned his second All Star selection for the effort. But when it came to the All NBA Team, he was an All NBA snub, which surprised even the mild-manned Aldridge, who believes he was overlooked because he plays in the Pacific Northwest.
But Aldridge isn't letting the oversight get him down. He's getting prepared for what he believes will be an even better season next year for both him and the Trailblazers, who missed the playoffs for the second straight year after making it the previous three.
HOOP caught up with Aldridge to discuss how disappointing it was to left off the All NBA team, what he's planning for the off season, what he thinks it will take for Portland to become a contender out West again and why he loves the videogame Skylander Giants so much.
There will be no snubbing in the interview.
HOOP: So LeMarcus, what have you been up to since the season ended?
Aldridge: I took some time off and got some rest. I spent time with my kids hanging around the house. We've just been having a good time playing the Skylander Giants games; we've been playing it everyday.
Now I'll start to get back into training. Not basketball training, but just weight training and cardio because last summer I had the hip surgery, so now I'm just taking advantage of this time to get my body back right. So far just been lifting and doing cardio and just being with my kids.
HOOP: Is there any one part of your game that you want to improve the most going into next year?
Aldridge: I think last year at the end I got better, but I think teams double teaming me on the block, I want to get better against that and creating my own shots in the elbow area. I think getting to the basket more and being able to create my own shot from there [are the two biggest things]. I think I did that better at the end of the season and I can do that more.
HOOP: Any former player you're going to work with to improve in that area?
Aldridge: No, just be with my guys who I always train with.
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Aldridge: I thought I WAS going to be on that team. I don't think that we have a guy on that team with the kind of stats I had. I think I was one of the only power forwards to average what I averaged. I think there were one or two other guys maybe. I thought my numbers and what I did over the season would put me in that group. But I made it one time and a couple of times I should have made it but I'm kind of getting used to not making things. [laughs]
HOOP: Is it disappointing not to make those teams and get that recognition for the season you had?
Aldridge: No, it's a motivation. Being from the Northwest, I feel looked over a good bit so I always use it as motivation to go prove everybody [wrong]. From the beginning everybody said I couldn't get better and now I'm the one dominating. Every time I don't get something that I think I deserved, I just work that much harder and I'm just going to prove to people that I deserved to be there.
HOOP: Is it a Pacific Northwest thing? Do you guys just get overlooked out there?
Aldridge: I think we are more forgotten about. But it's ok. It just pushes us to work harder. Thankfully they didn't overlook Damian [Lillard] because he was most outstanding rookie; so luckily he didn't get overlooked. But I think at times here in a small market way up here I think we are overlooked.
HOOP: On a positive note, you did make your second All-Star team. What did that mean to you?
Aldridge: It meant a lot. The first time was definitely a surprise and an honor and it meant more to go back-to-back years. I think all the coaches and all the players, I think it showed their respect to my game and to me. I think this is a motivation to keep working and do it next year. There were two or three years where I was overlooked but now all my hard work is being noticed by the coaches, at least. [laughs]
HOOP: You mentioned [NBA Rookie of the Year] Damian Lillard before. What was that like playing with him?
Aldridge: It was fun. I've never seen a player with as much confidence or as much poise in the first year like that. He came in from day one and had confidence and he came in and played his game and it was just fun to watch him continue to grow and figure it out.
Like the first time he got double-teamed and then the next time he figured it out watching film. So for me it was just fun to watch him grow. There would be some games where he would be making some tough shots and as his teammate I would just watch him play because he was that good this year.
HOOP: Do you think you and Damian can become the best big-man, small-man combination in the League?
Aldridge: I think we definitely can be one of the top combos, one of the top one-two punches. I think he's definitely good and I see him getting a lot better and I think as he continues to figure it out and I continue to dominate I think we could definitely wind up being one of the top one-two punches.
HOOP: Is it funny for you talking about young guys because you used to be the young guy in Portland? What's it like now being part of the old guard?
Aldridge: [laughs.] It's different. I definitely have accepted the challenge of being one of the older guys in the locker room and being a leader and being a vet and trying to point out things for the young guys.
I think what was new for me is I didn't notice how some of the younger guys really looked up to me. I thought most guys didn't look at me as a vet. But as I went on I noticed that the young guys looked up to me because of the things that I said and the things that I did. So that was a little adjustment period for me, knowing I was leading these young guys and they were following me because I went from being on an old team with Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace to being on a young team with all these guys who are 20, 21. So it was different.
HOOP: Yea, and now all those old guys are in New York.
Aldridge: [laughs] I know right. [laughs]
HOOP: I know you're a competitive guy like most NBA players are, so how much to do you want to bring the Trail Blazers back into the playoffs after missing it the last two years?
Aldridge: That's definitely my goal. I had a little taste of it. We went to the playoffs three years in a row and I've seen how this city can really wake up and get behind the team and follow us. It can be total Blazer-mania around here. I think they deserve that so I'm definitely looking forward to getting that excitement back here.
HOOP: What is it going to take for you to get back in that position?
Aldridge: Well we have cap room so we can bring people in this summer. We can sign a big man or whatever. So I think we can add a pretty big piece this summer with the open cap room we have. I think if we add one or two good pieces this summer I think anything is possible.
HOOP: Is there any player or players you'll be campaigning for?
Aldridge: No, not that I know of. I haven't really thought about it. I've been watching the playoffs and I'm in that mode so I haven't thought about it yet.
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Aldridge and Lillard have the potential to be one of the best duos in the NBA.
HOOP: I know you're promoting Skylanders Giants so what about the game do you like the most?
Aldridge: Just watching my kids. They place this disk card into the portal and they see this character come to life. I think that's a great experience for them. They go through and play the game and they have so much fun playing and changing the different characters on the portal so I think it's fun.
HOOP: How much more sophisticated is this game than the ones you played growing up?
Aldridge: It's night and day. You put a little toy giant on the portal and he pops up so for my kids it's like he's really coming to life and he's on the TV. I think these games these days are night and day. We had Sonic the Hedgehog and we had Mario Brothers. It wasn't anything of this caliber.
HOOP: Don't sleep on Duck Hunt.
Aldridge: [laughs] Yea, that was fun though. I don't know why. It was so simple but it was fun. [laughs]
HOOP: Anything else we didn't talk about that you thought was important?
Aldridge: Sure, we can start with Skylanders. My kids think that the character Bouncer is like me. He's really bouncy and really athletic and they watch me play basketball all the time so they think that character was made for me. I thought that was kind of funny that he's athletic and jumps around a lot and they think that's me.
HOOP: That is funny. Anything else about your off season plans?
Aldridge: In my offseason last time I had hip surgery so I didn't think my lateral quickness was good last season. It was still decent. But this time I'm definitely focusing on my lateral quickness and being fast and quick. I think this summer is definitely going to be different because I had surgery last summer and I really couldn't train like I wanted to. But this summer I have the whole summer to train so I definitely think I'll be better next year.
HOOP: Good luck. It will be hard to top this year.
Aldridge: Thank you.