LaMarcus Aldridge is officially no longer a Spur following a mutual decision to part ways, then a buyout just after the trade deadline. As he prepares to suit up in Brooklyn, you may have found yourself reflecting on his last five and a half seasons in San Antonio—or maybe you didn’t.
While Aldridge’s Spurs resume has its share of highlights—per-game averages of 19.5 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.3 blocks; a 255-155 record through the end of last season; three All-Star Games; two All-NBA Teams; a 56-piece on Oklahoma City; routinely giving back to the community—it’s hard to get overly sentimental about his bygone era. The aesthetics of his game rarely captivated the imagination, his demeanor didn’t court fandom, and his accomplishments fell somewhere in the chasm between objectively remarkable and subjectively substandard for a Spurs star. More than that, his tenure felt consistently at odds with circumstance, obstinance, abysmal timing, and sea changes big and small.
A good portion of Aldridge’s career will be framed by the three-point shot and his reluctant adoption of it. Its explosion coincided with his arrival in 2015 and conspired to render his back-to-the-basket style of play nearly obsolete. Suddenly any appreciation of the footwork, balance and strength of the post-up game gave way to the simple calculation that 3 is greater than 2. Aldridge, and the Spurs by proxy, represented a resistance to analytics, one 19-foot turnaround at a time. Old habits, especially those that propped up a borderline-Hall of Fame career, die hard.
(Eventually both parties gave in, at least a little. Aldridge began taking a few steps back on his jumpshots and shifted up to full-time center, as the power forward position evolved beneath him. If things break right for him with the contending Nets, it’ll be because he made the decision to do so in these twilight years.)
As Aldridge’s strengths diminished in value, he and the Spurs continued to pivot: from Tim Duncan’s retirement and Aldridge’s early struggles adapting to Gregg Popovich’s system; from an unsavory ankle turn that transformed a promising 2017 playoff run to a lone Aldridge facing swarms of double and triple teams from the superteam Warriors; from the stability of a Parker-run offense to the pace and education of Dejounte Murray and today’s ongoing youth movement. It’s easy to forget a heart arrhythmia in 2017 sidelined Aldridge indefinitely and, at least briefly, put a lot of things up in the air.