LaMarcus Aldridge has ended all speculation regarding his future on Saturday, when he announced that he would arrive in native Texas to play for five time NBA champions San Antonio Spurs.
The 2013-2014 champions and the All-Star power forward have agreed terms on a 4 year $80 million deal. This is less than what the Trailblazer could have given him should he had stayed in Portland, but its most likely that Aldridge, aged 29 and in his basketball prime, chose the Spurs due to his desire to win an NBA title.
And no one in the league probably offers him a better chance. The Spurs have qualified for the playoffs each season since the 1997-98 season, marking it as the longest currently active streak in all American sports. During this period, the team reached the NBA Finals six times and won five championships, all of them while coached by Greg Popovich and led by Tim Duncan in the field.
Duncan, who turned 39 this summer, has announced prior to Aldridge’s decision that he will return again next year, but this time he could actually consider retirement at the end of the season since he has now a worthy successor. Granted, Aldridge doesn’t play best as an old-school center, but is a big man with great ball handling, which seems to be the direction towards which NBA basketball is headed anyway.
The Spurs however did had to make some sacrifices to make salary cap space for Aldridge. They traded starting center Tiago Splitter in Atlanta for next to nothing in exchange, and they also had to let go of free agent bench players Marco Bellinelli (accounted by the Sacramento Kings) and Aron Baynes (who signed with the Detroit Pistons). They might also need to give up rising youngster Cory Joseph, who is a restricted free agent – meaning Spurs can match any offers given to him by other teams to re-sign him automatically.
They are also unsure on whether veteran star Manu Ginobili will return alongside Duncan, with him expected to announce his decision in an Argentinian newspaper. It is speculated that the two veterans will accept lower contracts to accommodate Aldridge’s high contract.
But despite all of this, the Spurs seem to have solved the most important problem of all – that of succession to the great team of the 2000s. For years, Parker, Ginobili and Duncan have overseen the Spurs’ performance, and not even a rising Kawhi Leonard has given naysayers reason to doubt that there will be a mandatory period of decline after they retire. However, adding alongside him a 23 point-10 rebounds average player will probably ensure that the franchise continues in its defiance of NBA unwritten rules for years to come.
Image Source: PBS