LaMarcus Aldridge is coming off one of his worst seasons statistically and told Gregg Popovich he wanted a fresh start with a new team, the Spurs coach revealed Thursday.
The 32-year-old big man averaged playoff career-lows in points (16.5), rebounds (7.4) and blocks (1.0) last season, but has turned it around thanks to offseason meetings with Popovich that convinced him to want to stay in San Antonio.
“We had some dinners and meetings and laughed,” Popovich said, via ESPN.com. “I was very candid with him. I told [Aldridge], ‘I’d be happy to trade you. You get me a talent like Kevin Durant, and I’ll drive you to the airport. I’ll pack your bags. And I will drive you there, get you on the plane, and get you seated.’
“He laughed you know, that kind of thing. I said, ‘But short of that, I’m your best buddy because you’re here for another year, and you ain’t going nowhere. Because we’re not gonna get for you talent-wise what we would want. So, let’s figure this thing out.’ And we did. That’s what we came to.”
Popovich said Aldridge bluntly told him before the season he wasn’t enjoying playing, lacked confidence and didn’t know if Popovich wanted him.
“It’s my 20-whatever year, and nobody’s ever said that,” Popovich said Thursday.
“As discussions went on, it became apparent to me that it really was me,” Popovich added. “He’d been playing in the league for nine years. I’m not going to turn him into some other player. I could do some things defensively or rebounding-wise. But on offense, I was going to move him everywhere. That was just silly on my part. Total overcoaching. So, we took care of it, and he’s been fantastic.”
Aldridge has averaged 25.3 points over his last eight games and after Monday’s 12 rebounds, he’s recorded four double-doubles in his last five games entering Thursday’s matchup with the Lakers.
Despite missing Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs (28-14) remain a top-three team in the Western Conference.