The Q&A: LaMarcus Aldridge on Spurs, a return to Portland some day and more

Spurs forward shares his thoughts on Coach Tim Duncan, his relationship with former teammate Damian Lillard

Michael C. Wright

Michael C. Wright NBA.com

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Apr 15, 2020 10:57 PM ET

Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge says his relationship has never been better with Damian Lillard.

One character off the emoji keyboard in response to a since-deleted tweet raised alarms all over San Antonio.

But LaMarcus Aldridge doesn’t regret shooting off an eyeball emoji in acknowledgement of seeing that Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard at some point would like to rejoin forces.

Aldridge covered that subject and more Wednesday in a 20-minute conversation with NBA.com, in which he pointed to both San Antonio and Portland as places he’d like to finish his NBA career.

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Let’s not beat around the bush here, man. When you heading over to Portland?

(Laughing). You would start it off like that, right away. Low blow, right away. (Laughing).

Jokes aside, you had to figure that no matter how you responded to  Damian Lillard’s tweet off Portland’s official account, people would take that and run with it in any number of ways, right?

Yeah, but I actually didn’t mind it. I was bored. I did it. So, I don’t regret it.

But was the eye emoji a joke, knowing that people would run with it?

Yeah, man. You can’t do anything these days. [The emoji] was like, “Oh, I see it.” That was it.

You think any of this goes back to when you said something last year about possibly  finishing your career in Portland ?

It is what it is (laughing).

So, what have you been doing throughout your time quarantining to keep yourself sharp for a possible return back to the court if the NBA decides to finish the season?

Man, it’s tough. I’m trying to work out at the house. I was going to the track. But they closed all the tracks down because people were hanging out there. So they closed down all the tracks. I’m just trying to ride the bike, the treadmill, just working out at the house.

What’s the daily routine?

Man, it’s boring. I’m just playing. But I wake up, try to get some breakfast in me, workout, try to keep some mobility stuff in my workout, then try to lift some weights at the house. After that, I go to the movie room and watch TV; binge watch something, hopefully I can find something good to watch and make the use of my time with that.

You’re a big-time hermit anyway. So, you should be cool with this whole staying at home situation, right?

Oh, I am. I’ve got no problem with it, but everyone wants to get out of the house every now and then. I do love being at home. But when it’s forced, it’s a little bit different. But I’ve been fine. It’s just, I want to hoop now. At first, it was like, 'cool, I like being at home. So, this is perfect.' It went from that to like, 'OK, now it’s time or I’d like to try to get back to basketball now.' But I’m trying to stay ready.

I feel like I’ve made some good memories in San Antonio. I feel like I’m in a really good family in San Antonio. They understand me. I understand them. So, I like that. I feel I have a lot of history in Portland. So, going back there to finish would be fine also."

LaMarcus Aldridge, on his career outlook

You talked about hitting up your movie room earlier. Any new music you’re into now, or any shows you’re binge watching?

I haven’t been on the music lately. I’m late to the party. But I just started that show "All American." I tried to watch it a while back, but I wasn’t really feeling it or whatever. So, I started again, and I’ve been hooked man. I just finished Season 1. I’m on Season 2 now. That’s been my latest show. I watched "Ozark" before that. I binge watched that whole season before that, and that was pretty good. Those are the last two shows I’ve been watching.

Everybody’s too pretty on "All American", right?

It’s Beverly Hills, man. That’s why.

Let’s get a little heavier here. Does it matter to you ultimately where your NBA career ends?

As I think about it, I think I would be cool with it ending in two places, either with San Antonio or in Portland. I think either one would be fine with me. I feel like I’ve made some good memories in San Antonio. I feel like I’m in a really good family in San Antonio. They understand me. I understand them. So, I like that. I feel I have a lot of history in Portland. So, going back there to finish would be fine also. I’m perfectly fine with finishing my career in San Antonio riding it out until my next chapter, or if things have to change there, and if they decide to go young, then I wouldn’t mind going to Portland.

It seems like your attitude about Portland has changed quite a bit from when you first left there in 2015 to come to San Antonio. I remember how tough the fans were when you went back to play in Portland for the first time. What’s changed?

The fans were rough because they felt like what I did wasn’t right. I left, and I feel like they wanted me to stay and see what could be. But a lot has changed. Like they say, as you grow older hindsight is 20-20. People mature. It’s no secret that Dame and my relationship has gotten a whole lot better. We’ve had some good talks over the years, and we definitely understand each other better. It was well-documented about us just talking and us figuring out that it wasn’t us. It was people around us. So, of course when your relationship gets better with the main guy, then it’s gonna have a different feeling. I feel like I had nothing but good times there. There were ups and downs like there’s going to be anywhere, but I came into the league there, grew into who I am there. So, of course, as you get older, you place value on those things. Obviously, the biggest part of everything is Dame and I fixing what wasn’t really broken by us really just talking it out.

Going back to the current situation around the world, have you found different ways now to unwind compared to when you’re grinding in the midst of an NBA season?

It’s a little bit difficult really because you’re so limited in things you can do because everything you have to do is basically at home right now. But I’m trying to read when I can, which is what I’ve always tried to do; watching movies, just trying to find ways to help myself grow. Trying to stay sharp is really all I can do right now. I’ve reached out to the NBAPA to try to take a business course while I’m free. Hopefully, I’m not free for too much longer. But I think it’s best to try to maximize this time and work to try to better ourselves. That’s something I would like to do. So, I’m looking into trying to take a business class just to try to come out of this with something more than when all of this started. Because if we just sit at home not doing anything, then I feel like it’s No. 1, I’ll go crazy. Then, for No. 2 it’s like we have to find a way to take advantage of being at home basically.

I do love being at home. But when it’s forced, it’s a little bit different. But I’ve been fine. It’s just, I want to hoop now. At first, it was like, 'cool, I like being at home. So, this is perfect.' It went from that to like, 'OK, now it’s time or I’d like to try to get back to basketball now.' But I’m trying to stay ready."

LaMarcus Aldridge

The Spurs sit at 27-36 looking up at a few teams in the Western Conference standings. If the season is resumed, what’s a realistic expectation for how this team will finish the season?

That last game (against the Dallas Mavericks), we won. So, you’ve got to go off of that. I feel like we were trying to figure it out. I had been out a few games. I was all of a sudden fresh. We’re all just trying to do what we can to win. I think if it plays out the rest of the way, we have as good of a chance as anyone to be in that eighth spot. That eighth spot doesn’t have to be a crazy record this year. So, I think that makes it even more possible to go on a little run at the end and try to get in there.

 
LaMarcus Aldridge had one of his best games of 2019-20 on Dec. 23 vs. Memphis.

Any pressure to keep San Antonio’s 22-year playoff streak alive?

I’m different. I don’t know how everyone else is. So, I can’t speak for them. But you don’t want to be the team that ended the streak. That’s for sure. I think the pressure should be on ourselves to just make the playoffs, for this team, for this moment, for ourselves and all the work that we put in. That streak is definitely big-time, and you don’t want to be the team that ends it. But you should also want to make it for yourself; just for all the things that we’ve done, we’ve been through, and we’ve battled through. I definitely would love to keep [the streak] going, but I think we have to do it for this team that we have right now more than anything else.

When you signed to play in San Antonio in 2015, you were sort of joining the team as Hall of Famer Tim Duncan was on the way out. Was it ever on your mind when you came to San Antonio that you’d have the task of following a legend like Duncan?

I think everyone wrote articles differently during that time. I wouldn’t say I followed him there. I feel like I’ve always had an interest. It was more about the organization than just Tim. I came to the Spurs because of the organization, because of my interest since college [at the University of Texas]. We used to go up there and watch games. To play with Tim, and to see what that’s like, to play with Manu [Ginobili], to play with Tony [Parker], it was the whole picture. It was playing for [Spurs coach Gregg Popovich], and seeing how that would be and just being in that organization that I felt like puts its players first. I’m not saying that other teams don’t, but just being a part of that team and that culture was important to me. I think that’s why I felt like they always fit my personality. They’re more about, let’s just do our work and go home, and not do all of that other stuff. It was more of an interest of the whole picture. Of course, playing with Tim was an honor. I had nothing but fun playing with him. But I think I can say it was the whole picture of playing with Tony and Manu and playing for Pop and playing for San Antonio since I grew up in Texas.

What’s it like to play for coach Duncan?

It’s the same, really, you know? He’s pretty laid back. He coached when he played. He was like a player-coach on the court. So, I feel like it’s the same. He’s still gonna shoot jokes at you. He’s still gonna come in and try to play five-on-five any time he can. He’s still going to point things out if he sees anything. It’s the same for me because we were always talking things over as far as things in the game, how things look, what he sees and vice-versa. So, it’s the same. Even when he was playing, he was trying to help me feel comfortable in the new system, on a new team and things like that. He’s been great at it, and it’s been fun.

... You don’t want to be the team that ended the streak. That’s for sure. I think the pressure should be on ourselves to just make the playoffs, for this team, for this moment, for ourselves and all the work that we put in. That streak is definitely big-time, and you don’t want to be the team that ends it."

LaMarcus Aldridge, on the Spurs 22-year playoff streak

Can he still cook on the floor?

Cook? You mean, can he get some buckets? He can still get some buckets. When you have that IQ, and you have a tiny bit of skill left [you can score]. He can’t move like he used to, but he has skill and he has a tiny bit of mobility left. (Laughing) That’s all I have to say. But when you have that, you can score. He definitely still scores. He’s definitely not moving like he used to, for sure.

Speaking of that, what’s it like for you now? What’s the difference when it comes to managing your body at age 24, compared to now at 34?

It just takes more of a focus, more of a pregame, pre-practice routine as far as knowing what you have to do to get your body ready, knowing that it takes more time. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing. I think it actually helps you be more proactive about injuries and things like that. My biggest thing I’ve learned is just putting time into getting ready. When we’re young, you just go on the court and just hoop. But I think as you get older, it’s more about, making sure everything is firing and making sure everything is ready to go and warmed up. For me, I’ve put together a little pre-game routine to get warm, to get my body going. I do that every game. It’s about lifting more. As you know, post-game, I try to always lift so I can keep everything strong and activated. So, it’s more about just putting more time in and learning what your body needs, and just going with it.

LaMarcus Aldridge says he's still learning plenty from teammate-turned-Spurs assistant coach Tim Duncan.

Yeah, you take forever to come out to talk to the media postgame. You sure you’re not trying to wait out the media, because as you know, I can wait all night?

(Laughing) So, what I do is if I find something I tweaked or something that’s sore, I get treatment, and then I lift. If I’m not tweaked, I lift, do hot tub [treatment], cold tub, back and forth, and then I come out and see y’all. But what I’ve learned and what works for me is getting that lift in after the game just keeps everything strong, keeps everything going, and I don’t have to worry so much about nagging injuries. If I can keep everything firing, then I’ll be good to go. I’m not waiting 30 or 35 minutes behind to [keep from] seeing y’all. It’s me in there lifting weights, trying to make sure I’m getting things back firing and working. I’m not just sitting around. Man, I’m pretty spoiled in San Antonio. I don’t do media every day. So, I don’t really complain about it. It’s just me trying to be more proactive with my body because when you stop and sit down, then it’s hard to just get up and go lift again. So, I just try to do it right after the game so I can just get it done while my body is ready.

Ever since you’ve been in San Antonio, your commitment to being in this city has always been in question for whatever reason. Why is that?

I don’t know why. I have no clue. I’ve done nothing but try to give what I can and try to do everything I can to help us win, try to do what I can for the team to help the team grow. I’ve tried to change my game to make the team better. I started really shooting 3’s this year to try to make us better and open up the floor for DeMar [DeRozan]. So, it’s like I don’t know why it happens that way. But I’ve been just fully committed. I think it was just that one thing that Pop and I talked about (Aldridge met with Popovich in the summer of 2017 to request a trade). Ever since, I feel like people just won’t let that go. But we talked that out, and that’s been done, been gone. So, I don’t know why people are still thinking about that. But ever since then, I’ve been locked in. I’ve been all-in. I’m just really looking forward for if we get a chance to try to get back in that eighth spot. If not, then I’m still looking forward to next season and seeing what we can do with the young fellas getting better.

Speaking of Pop, you talked to him lately?

Yeah, I think last week.

He doing OK?

He seemed like he was fine. But I can’t speak for him.

Man, you know he probably wants to be on the floor as much as the players.

Yeah, he’s definitely missing it, I would say. We all want to go back out there for sure.

What are your thoughts about some of the things the league has been doing with players such as the NBA 2K20 tournament and the NBA HORSE Challenge?

I’ve been watching it. It’s fun. It’s giving guys a way to be competitive, for one. Then two, you’re trying to give the fans something to do as far as watching basketball in whatever capacity they can. I feel like it’s been good for both sides. The fans are stuck at home, so why not watch it? We’re stuck at home, and this gives us something to do, too. So, it’s been good. I can’t do video games because I don’t do them. But the HORSE Challenge, maybe one day I can get into that one.

But you can’t do any dunks.

That’s fine. I’m a shooter. What you mean? I ain’t gotta dunk.

If you’re really practicing social distancing, what does your hairline look like right now?

(Laughing) Man, everybody’s hair is torn up right now.

You don’t know how to cut your own hair?

Man, I wouldn’t even try that. I’d come back from this break looking like I’ve messed myself up. Nah, I’m good.

But isn’t this the time to learn? You don’t have to be out in public now with a bad haircut.

 As soon as I do it, they’d be like, ‘back to practice tomorrow.’ (Laughing).

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him  here , find his archive  here  and follow him on  Twitter .

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