Getting a first look at Damian Lillard, Meyers Leonard, Joel Freeland, Victor Claver and the rest of the new additions to the 2012-13 Trail Blazers is probably the most common answer to why one would watch Wednesday's preseason game between the Trail Blazers and Lakers. But you might notice a few new wrinkles not associated with the rookies, at least if LaMarcus Aldridge gets into a rhythm early.
After recovering from hip surgery and a blood virus, Aldridge spent much of his offseason in California working on his game. In offseasons past, Aldridge has worked on his ability to take contact in the paint, operating with his back-to-the-basket game and developing a 3-point shot. And ever year, he came back to Portland a better player for it. This offseason, Aldridge came to a realization about a deficiency in his offensive repertoire, and decided to do something about it.
"What I've learned is I never used to want to go left," said Aldridge. "But as I've learned to put the ball down more, I love going left now, like off the dribble to the left. I don't know why, but I went from right, right, right to going left, like my little setback jumper. That's like my go-to move off the dribble."
Aldridge came to the conclusion he had to become a more consistent ballhandler in order to elevate his offensive game. So despite coming off his best season as a pro, at least statistically, and having to deal with two significant health issues, Aldridge dedicated himself to improving his dribble, and thus, his ability to score while going left.
"I feel like off the dribble, elbow game (are areas of improvement)," said Aldridge. "Like, I think I've gotten to the basket so much in this pre-preason that guys are really surprised how much I worked on putting the ball down. Two or three dribbles, getting my own shot with two or three dribbles, getting to the basket. So I think that the part of my game everyone is going to see get better.
"I think I've gotten better on getting into the lane, pulling up early, little floater game, little spin. Things like that I've gotten better at that."
And aside from an improved handle, Aldridge says that, after six seasons, he has a "next level" understanding of his own game.
"It's like, when they say you've hit your prime and you feel really strong, the game is really slow for you," said Aldridge. "I feel like I'm in that mind state, in that part of my career where I'm working out with the guys, I'm playing 5-on-5, it like it seems kind of easy because I know myself. I know what shots I can make."