Aldridge paces the surprising Blazers
The late-game ”M-V-P!” chants are now the norm in Portland for
LaMarcus Aldridge, and the Trail Blazers’ forward is putting up
numbers worthy of such adulation.
The two-time All-Star is averaging a career-high 23.5 points and
10.6 rebounds. He’s leading the way for a surprising Portland team
that sits atop the Western Conference with a 19-4 record. It’s the
Blazers’ best start since they opened the 1990-91 season 21-2.
”He’s playing at a crazy-high level,” teammate Wesley Matthews
The latest victory came Thursday night against the Houston
Rockets, 111-104. Aldridge had 31 points and a career-high 25
rebounds, becoming the first Blazers player ever with 30 or more
points and 25 or more rebounds.
There were no clues that Aldridge was going to have a monster
game. He missed his first five shots and was 1 for 7 from the floor
in the first quarter. But he was quickly picking up rebounds,
grabbing 10 in the first half.
He poured it on in the third quarter with 14 points and nine
”He’s a load,” Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson said.
”I don’t think I can remember seeing someone who takes so many
hard, contested, fallaway jump shots and consistently makes them.
He’s really, really good.”
Only Minnesota’s Kevin Love has better averages this season for
points and rebounds combined, with 23.9 points and 13.8
Aldridge has been the Western Conference player of the week
twice this season. In a 111-104 win against Oklahoma City earlier
this month – a victory that snapped an eight-game Thunder winning
streak – he had a season-high 38 points and 13 rebounds, becoming
just the third Blazer with as many points and rebounds in a single
”He was shooting turn-arounds from almost the three-point line
on top of our bigs and knocking them down,” Kevin Durant said
afterward. ”That’s what great players do. They come through in the
clutch and make shots and he’s a shot maker. I’m sure he practices
those shots all the time. It looked like it was great defense on
our part but better offense.”
Aldridge has two games this season with at least 20 points and
20 rebounds. Before the Rockets, he also had 30 points and 21
rebounds in a 113-101 victory over Golden State on Nov. 23.
But according to coach Terry Stotts, Aldridge’s success so far
this season is about more than just stats.
”He’s doing everything that he’s done well before a little bit
better,” Stotts said. ”His performance on the court has been
terrific, but he’s part of the reason we have the good chemistry
that we have. It’s the intangibles that go beyond the points and
A seven-year NBA veteran, Aldridge was drafted out of Texas by
Chicago with the second overall pick in the 2006 draft and
immediately traded to Portland.
In his early years in Portland, 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.
Aldridge has been named to the All-Star roster for the past two
seasons by vote of the coaches. He understands that in the
talent-laden West, it’s difficult for players on smaller market
teams – especially one tucked away in the Pacific Northwest – to
get All-Star fan votes. He was ranked eighth among Western
Conference frontcourt players in the first returns of All-Star
balloting released on Thursday.
Aldridge also understands that his game is a lot like his
personality: quiet and unassuming.
”People probably don’t know who I am, or what I do up here.
Some people probably just don’t like my game. I’m not flashy. I
don’t dunk. I don’t do anything really exciting, you know?” he
Aldridge has been helped this year by the addition of center
Robin Lopez. Whereas Aldridge was double-teamed for much of last
season, the addition of the 7-footer, acquired in a three-team
offseason trade from New Orleans, has provided a distraction for
Lopez appears to have benefited from the move, too. He is
averaging 9.5 points and a career-best 8.7 rebounds and he already
has a career-high 10 double-doubles through Portland’s first 23
There were rumors in the offseason that Aldridge wanted to be
traded to a team that could contend but for now that all seems to
be a distant memory.
Earlier this week a young fan in Utah treated the 6-foot-10
forward to his first ”M-V-P!” cheer on the road. In return, the
fan was granted an autograph.
”All those M-V-P chants, he deserves it,” teammate Nicolas
Batum simply said.