Rip City is alive! One of the more prominent members of Portland sports media, Comcast SportsNet’s Dwight Jaynes, has said that Portland is a better city when the Trail Blazers are winning. If true, Portland must be one of the best cities in the country at this point in the young basketball season.
The success that this team has seen has surprised absolutely everyone across the country, but if it surprised anyone in the locker room, they do a fantastic job hiding it. Every one of the players has an attitude that they expect to win and they seem pretty unflappable.
Everyone has their own opinion as to what is the key to the early success. Some say it’s the improved bench, some say it is the hot shooting from beyond the arch. Without a doubt in my mind, LaMarcus Aldridge is the reason this team has become a contender in the Western Conference.
In the past, Aldridge has been seen as a soft, outside shooting stretch-4. When the game was on the line, there was always a question as to who should get the ball in the fourth quarter. Aldridge was never viewed as a vocal leader. It’s funny that just a few months ago, there was talk that Aldridge should be traded because he is not part of the future for this young team.
A month and a half into the season, a lot of those popular opinions of the 6’11” Aldridge has vastly changed. Aldridge is averaging 23.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. But the value of Aldridge to this basketball team is hard to quantify with numbers. The leadership and confidence that seemed to be lacking in the past are now a strong suit.
It is a forgone conclusion that the ball will be in his hands a lot in the fourth quarter. This year he calls for the ball, he is much more active establishing a low block presence and he looks much stronger than he ever has. He is also a very underrated defensive player. His length and athleticism cause other power forwards fits.
All of that said, all of the drama that riddled this team over the offseason is done, this team is winning games and everything is all good in Portland. This is an exciting team to watch and they have caught the eye of media and fans across the league. This all is due in large part because of Aldridge.
Make no mistake, this is Aldridge’s team. Damian Lillard will be an All-Star and he is a very talented point guard, but this team is built around the shooting and leadership of Aldridge.