Aldridge returns to Portland for the 1st time with Spurs
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) LaMarcus Aldridge made his first appearance in Portland since leaving the Trail Blazers for San Antonio this summer, leading the Spurs to a 113-101 victory Wednesday.
The Texas native signed a four-year deal worth $80 million with the Spurs in July. Aldridge met with several teams, but ultimately picked the one that brought him home.
He spent the first nine years of his career in Portland and set franchise records for rebounds and double-doubles, while finishing second to Clyde Drexler in points.
The Moda Center crowd greeted him with a mixture of cheers and boos.
''After a while I got used to it,'' he said. ''That was my first time being booed like that. At first it did surprise me, but after a while I was used to it.''
While he expressed his love for Portland and his gratitude to the team for his time there, he also said he was having fun with the Spurs.
''It's awesome, man. We have a bunch of great guys that just want to win. You've got Hall of Famers, you've got guys that have been champions over and over, and it's very selfless that they have deferred to me and let me be myself,'' he said. ''This team is awesome.''
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Aldridge is still finding his way.
''He'll get more comfortable as the year progresses,'' Popovich said. ''It's a new system, new players. It takes a little bit of time.''
Aldridge met with a group of local kids and signed autographs about an hour before the game started.
The four-time All-Star was among four starters that the Blazers lost from last year's team, joined by Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez. The only one left is guard Damian Lillard.
Lillard said it was a little odd playing against Aldridge.
''One time Coach made a call only the team knows, it was a signal, and LaMarcus called out what we were doing,'' Lillard said. ''We both looked at each other and laughed because he remembered it.''
Last season, Portland went 51-31 and advanced to the playoffs. But the team's chemistry was hurt when Matthews injured his Achilles tendon late in the season and the Blazers were eliminated in the first round by Memphis. Aldridge led the team, averaging 23.4 points and 10.2 rebounds.
Aldridge now starts alongside Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, a lineup considered among the best in the Western Conference. The Spurs are off to a 6-2 start with Wednesday night's win.
The Trail Blazers, rebuilding after the mass departures, are 4-5.
Blazers coach Terry Stotts had nothing but praise for his former forward.
''He was terrific in my three years,'' Stotts said. ''We wouldn't have had the success that we did if it weren't for him.''