PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Sure, LaMarcus Aldridge was bummed he wasn’t named an All-Star starter. But he wasn’t nearly as upset as his teammates.
Or his mom.
”I think everybody around me was more upset than me,” he said. ”I came in tonight and Nico (teammate Nicolas Batum) was pretty fired up about it. And my mom was pretty heated about it.
”I think I definitely should have been a starter, but it’s over now.”
Aldridge let his game answer any skeptics Thursday night when he scored a career-high 44 points in Portland’s 110-105 come-from-behind victory over the Denver Nuggets. He scored the final 15 points of the game, prompting chants of ”M-V-P! M-V-P!” from the Portland fans.
His scoring outburst came just a few hours after the All-Star starters, based on fan voting, were announced. Aldridge came in fifth place in the West: The starting frontcourt includes Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, the Clippers’ Blake Griffin and Minnesota’s Kevin Love.
Aldridge is already a two-time All-Star, having been selected the past two seasons as a reserve by the conference’s coaches. The reserves for this season’s game, set for Feb. 16 in New Orleans, will be announced on Jan. 30.
Wesley Matthews was among Aldridge’s teammates who were miffed he didn’t get recognized as a starter.
”His play speaks for itself and our record speaks on behalf of his play,” Matthews said.
Mo Williams added: ”He’s without a doubt the best power forward in the league.”
Even Blazers owner Paul Allen, who also owns the Super Bowl-bound Seattle Seahawks, weighed in on his 6-foot-11 forward.
”If you watch him out there, he’s so engaged in the games,” Allen said. ”He’s taken on more of a leadership role. I think it’s evident in all aspects of his game.”
Aldridge is having a career season to drive the surprising Trail Blazers, who missed the playoffs last year but have gone 32-11 so far this season, good for third place overall in the conference behind the Thunder and the Spurs. The Blazers are one win away from their total for all of last season.
Aldridge is averaging 24.7 points and 11.6 rebounds. He has scored at least 25 points in six straight games, and he has at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in seven straight, tying him with Love for an NBA season high.
The seven-game streak also matches Portland’s franchise record, hit three times by Sidney Wicks.
He had 13 rebounds to go with his 44 points against the Nuggets. In the celebration afterward, Aldridge kept a tight hold on the game ball, and he took it with him off the court.
”He’s tough,” Denver coach Brian Shaw said. ”He’s been having those kind of games against everybody.”
A seven-year NBA veteran, Aldridge was drafted out of Texas by Chicago with the second overall pick in the 2006 draft and immediately dealt to Portland. In his early years with the Blazers, the softspoken Dallas native was overshadowed by guard Brandon Roy, who was also in the 2006 draft class. Roy went on to become the league’s Rookie of the Year and a three-time All-Star before knee problems cut short his career.
Before this season started, there were rumors that Aldridge wanted to be traded to a team that could contend. During fall camp, both Aldridge and general manager Neil Olshey tried to diffuse the reports.
More recently, there’s been chatter that Aldridge is seeking an extension with the Blazers.
”As you guys know, at the appropriate time we’ll consider all those options,” Allen said.
On Saturday night, the Blazers will host Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Following the victory over Denver, Wesley Matthews was asked if perhaps Aldridge was making a statement with his play following the All-Star announcement.
”I think his statement is going to come on Saturday,” Matthews teased about the anticipated Aldridge-Love matchup. ”It’s a good start, though.”