It’s a shame that February is the shortest month of the year. The redheaded stepchild of the Gregorian calendar, February is the dumping ground for minor holidays (no offense former presidents, St. Valentine, Punxsutawney Phil and Flag Day enthusiasts), is represented by one of the cheapest birthstones (amethyst is basically purple quartz) and is generally viewed as a month you simply get through in between celebrating the New Year and waiting for spring to arrive. Not many folks out there likely consider February their favorite month, at least among those of us residing in the northern hemisphere.
LaMarcus Aldridge might be an exception. While he may enjoy the sun of the summer months to the wind and rain of February, he surely takes great pleasure in his performances during the second month of the year.
In the last two seasons, Aldridge’s numbers have jumped dramatically when compared to his overall season averages. In 2009-10, his points per game increased from 18.4 in January to 20.5 in February, only to regress to 17.6 in March. That trend continued in 2010-11, when he went from 24.9 points per game in January to 27.8 in February. And his scoring once again regressed to the mean in March of 2011, when he finished the third month of the year averaging 20.1 ppg.
With those averages in mind, it should come as no surprise that seven of Aldridge’s top-15 high-scoring games
came in February. His Top-4 games, from a scoring standpoint, all occurred in the month in question.
And it’s not as if his points per game numbers have been artificially bumped up simply because he took more shots. His shooting percentage has also skyrocketed in February, increasing from 49 percent in January 2010 to 53 percent in February before dropping back to 49 percent in March. The numbers were even more drastic last season, when Aldridge improved his percentage a ridiculous six points to 56 percent in February after finishing both January and March at 50 percent.
We’re just over a quarter of the way through the month, but the early returns indicate LaMarcus is on a course for another great February. He’s already scored at least 28 points in three consecutive games this month -- it likely would have been four if the February 1 game against the Bobcats had not been a blowout -- which is an accomplishment he’s only achieved once during, you guessed it, February 2011. And though it is a small sample size, his average has jumped from around 20 ppg to nearly 30 through four February games. He’s also shooting 58 percent in February, a seven percentage-point increase from his season average.
“It's weird, I really do feel like I'm on point right now,” said Aldridge of his February performances. “I feel like my game is getting better every game. I feel like I'm learning where my shots are. I have a really good rhythm right now.”
Part of this phenomenon can be attributed to the point of the season in which February falls rather than some positive omen brought on by the shortest month of the year. February is usually a little past the midway point of the season, a time in which player’s are rounding into form while also developing familiarity with their teammates, so it makes sense his numbers typically improve. At least that’s how Aldridge explains it.
“I think after All-Star break (during the 2010-11 season) or leading into it, like when I had 30, 30, 30, all those games, I felt like I was pretty dialed in and a knew myself pretty well,” said Aldridge. “If you think about it, we almost halfway through the season so I think now I've kind of learned my teammates. I think Ray (Felton) has learned me better and our chemistry is getting better.”
That partially explains Aldridge’s dramatic improvement in February, but if fitness and familiarity are the reasons why LA’s numbers improve in February, why don’t those factors apply to March, a month in which Aldridge’s numbers have regresses the past two seasons? And this season, with the lockout-shortened schedule, February is nearing the midway point of the season, but even so, it’s nowhere near the number of games that would have been played had the season started on time.
Whatever the reason, the Trail Blazers are lucky Aldridge seems to be on another February hot streak. The team is going to need the absolute best out of their best player with games coming at an average of one every two days, including important matchups against the Nuggets, Lakers, Clippers, Mavs and Spurs and a back-to-back-to-back. What’s more, all but one game in February is against Western Conference opponents, the same teams Portland will be jockeying with for playoff position come April.
Given that, it’s a good thing 2012 is a Leap Year. We need all of the extra “February LaMarcus” that we can get this season.