PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — LaMarcus Aldridge made his first appearance in Portland since he left the Trail Blazers for the San Antonio Spurs this summer.
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.
Aldridge 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.
At shootaround before Wednesday night’s game against the Blazers, Aldridge said he was grateful for his time in Rip City.
"I love this city. I love the fans. I grew up here. I developed as a player, as a man," he said. "So I love this city, and that will never change."
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, who now leads the third-youngest squad in the NBA.
"It’s going to be different for me, being here where it all started for me, but I’m not going to put too much pressure on it," Aldridge said.
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 5-2 start.
The Trail Blazers, rebuilding after the mass departures, are 4-4.
"I think our team’s going to be kind of juiced," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "The crowd’s going to be into the game, I think that’s good for the home team. We need a win. We’ve lost two in a row. When a team like San Antonio comes in, I think that brings out the best of you."
Stotts had nothing but praise for Aldridge.
"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."