Well, this is a fun one.
Bleacher Report’s Ken Berger wrote a piece on Thursday about the tumultuous relationship between Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs. No, he didn’t suggest the organization trades Leonard to the Portland Trail Blazers—I took care of that last week. But there was an interesting nugget about former Rip City forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
According to Berger’s sources, Aldridge “called former teammate Damian Lillard [last summer]and asked him to approach general manager Neil Olshey about bringing Aldridge back to Portland.”
Can you even imagine?
For starters, think about how that conversation unfolded. At first thought, you have to assume it went something like: “Hey, Dame. I think I’m ready for my ’I’m Coming Home’ Diddy Moment.” Lillard’s response:
On second thought, Lillard has more class than me. So after the initial surprise, he probably took a deep breath and explained to the All-Star that the team had moved on and was establishing its own direction.
*Although it was reported around the draft that the Blazers had interest in acquiring Aldridge, we cannot confirm if that was a result of this conversation. If Lillard had actually gone to Olshey, it seems like that news would’ve been leaked long before now.
While the deal never went down and fences were eventually mended between Aldridge and Popovich, it’s a fascinating situation to think about.
What if the Blazers had brought back their franchise leader in rebounds and No. 2 all-time scorer? Would they have still held the third seed despite a chemistry shake-up? (You can assume they wouldn’t have jumped the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets for a top-two seed.) Would a legitimate low-post threat and third scoring option have been the difference-maker in the postseason?
And maybe most importantly, who would Portland have given up in order to bring back the 32-year-old?
Perhaps the Spurs would’ve felt comfortable building for the future with a first-round pick or two, a small-ball 4 in Al-Farouq Aminu and a young 3 in Mo Harkless. Or maybe—just maybe—San Antonio could’ve convinced Olshey to build a trade package around Jusuf Nurkic by taking on Evan Turner’s albatross of a contract. Portland could then justify a downgrade at starting center with the addition of a scoring/rebounding presence at the 4—something the team hasn’t had since the departure of, well, you know.
At this point, everything is moot considering LMA and Pop figured it out, but the talking points are noteworthy. This hardly qualifies as one of the Blazers’ biggest “what ifs” in franchise history, but it’s tough not to let your mind wander to a place where Aldridge gives Lillard and CJ McCollum the relief they needed in Round 1 against the New Orleans Pelicans.