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After a dispiriting postseason raised questions about LaMarcus Aldridge’s fit in San Antonio, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich revealed Thursday night that the All-Star power forward requested a trade.
“He said, ‘I want to be traded,’” Popovich told reporters. “And I said, ‘Whoa, nobody has ever said that to me before.’ He said, ‘I’m not enjoying this. I’m not confident. I’m not sure you want me here. I want to be traded.’”
Aldridge’s discontent was known, and the Spurs talked with several teams ahead of the draft in hopes of landing a high first-round pick, as USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick reported, but nothing materialized.
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The trade request spawned an honest dialogue between Popovich and Aldridge, which has had everything to do with his resurgence this season.
“I was very candid with him,” Popovich said. “I told him I would be happy to trade him. ‘You get me a talent like Kevin Durant, and I will drive you to the airport. I will pack your bags, and I will drive you there,’ and he laughed. And I said, ‘Short of that, I’m your best buddy, and you are here for another year, and you ain’t going nowhere because for you talent-wise, we are not going to get what we want, so let’s figure this thing out.’ And we did.”
Aldridge felt comfortable enough to sign a three-year contract extension in October that runs through the 2020-21 season.
Aldridge posted a career-low in scoring last postseason, averaging 16.5 points on 45% shooting and 7.4 rebounds. After Kawhi Leonard was injured in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against Golden State, Aldridge didn’t step up, leading Popovich to say “he can’t be timid.”
The Spurs were ultimately swept, but upon further evaluation, Popovich accepted blame for Aldridge’s struggles.
“As discussions went on, it became apparent to me that it really was me,” Popovich said. “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.”
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