caseyholdahl

Jan 16

Talking A Big Game

By caseyholdahl Posted in: Blazers, Pelicans, LaMarcusAldridge, NicolasBatum
There was a time when LaMarcus Aldridge, when asked about being a leader, would note he was the type of person who preferred to let with his play, rather than his words, do the talking. And at the time, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Brandon Roy was around to say what needed to be said, both on the court and in the locker room, and that gave Aldridge the luxury of being the strong, silent type.

But these are different days. Roy isn’t around to pipe up anymore, and Nate McMillan, like every coach in the NBA, can only say the same thing so many times before players start to lose interest. It has to come from Aldridge, and this season, it has. Monday’s victory against the Hornets in New Orleans provided a perfect case study in why it’s no longer good enough for Aldridge to walk the walk but not talk the talk.  

For whatever reason, Aldridge wasn’t feeling it when the lights turned on at New Orleans Arena. It might have been the once-a-year abnormally early start, which always seems to give the Trail Blazers problems on the east coast. NBA players thrive on routine, and when you have to play at noon, a time in which players are typically taking their pregame naps, it throws off rhythm more than people realize. And you could see it in Aldridge’s play in the first half. He was unusually tentative and visibly winded, two traits not often associated with the 6-11 power forward.

“I wasn't feeling great tonight,” admitted Aldridge after the game. “Was feeling a step slow, but I told myself 'I'm not going to lose four in a row.'”

So when the team came out for the second half, Aldridge did what leaders need to do: he set an example with his actions while rallying his wards with his words.

“I've been on teams -- I've been here -- where you could lose three and everybody starts thinking too much and everybody starts getting down and it can go to four (losses),” said Aldridge. “It's like 'No, I'm not letting that happen.' It's like 'Ya'll miss shots, ok, let's just keep shooting.' I just want everybody to stay confident. Like, even I was hesitant in the first half. I was like ‘If I'm hesitant, then how are they going to be confident?’ So I'm just talking like 'Just keep shooting, keep shooting.' Cause you know, it's tough on the road. We've played so many on the road in so few days, so I was trying to tell guys to stay confident and keep shooting.”

When backpedaling in anticipation of the next defensive possessions, Aldridge was constantly talking up his teammates, telling them to keep working, that there was no way they should drop their fourth straight to anyone, let alone to a team that had lost nine of their last ten.

On one such occasion, Aldridge was so determined to keep Nicolas Batum’s spirits up after a missed shot that a cross-court pass that would have yielded an easy bucket startled him. He was able to get back in position before any damage was done, but even if he hadn’t, the impact of buoying his teammates’ spirits might have been more important than allowing two points.

Now make no mistake: Aldridge has been doing this for a while now, but this is the first time that, from the start of the season, everyone in the locker room knows it’s LaMarcus’ team. The result is that his teammates, be it subconsciously or otherwise, expect to him to be where the buck stops. So with the adversity of a four-game losing streak looming as a very real possibility, Aldridge became emphatic in his vocal leadership.

“I thought (Aldridge) was trying to get the team fired up,” said McMillan. “That's what we need from each other. It can't just come from the coach; it has to come from the guys. This is a game we needed. (New Orleans) certainly needed the game, but we needed this game to get confidence, to go into this next game with a little more confidence.”

“I was trying to give us a spark,” said Aldridge. “It's a team effort but I figured if I kind of gave us a spark then everybody would try to pick it up. I went a little bit harder then everybody else went harder too.”

And that made things much easier for the rest of us.

8 Comments

  1. Casey, when LA got it going in the 2nd half, it triggered the rest of the team in picking their game up. I couldn't help but hearing Wheels and Tone saying 'that's what an all star does' and thinking, 'this guy's starting to take over now. let's hope it continues.'

    by blazerdarren77 on 1/16/2012 10:21 PM
  2. its aldridges team but the one guy i always felt lead the spark was gwall, his gritty hard knocks style lead it camby lead the defense, kurt has gotten this team to take charges sacrifice there bodies, and LA has to take the team on his back and lead not with words but lead with actions, i always feel the team vocal point should be the point, felton shoudl lead this team liek dre lead last year but its nice that LA is the vocal point and hopefully will take that expolosive personality in to the allstar game and hopefully fingers crosed the games in london my blog i wrote described my prediction in who should make it and i feel with the versitality and fact that he plays both ends should result nto only in an invite but shoudl land him a spot as the 11th or 12th man and should have the meaningful mins of kevin loved had last year in the games, yes a lesser role but with dwight anthony lebron maybe chandler and griffin hard to say how they would go but all in all glad LA took the role of leader nto only in the offseason but took it in to the season and willed his team to a victory even tho in a such dismal win in such a team lost in there own way...

    by jamie (guy) on 1/16/2012 10:23 PM
  3. Hello Casey,

    Well said. I think LaMarcus, even on an off game, still shows his All Star capabilities. The go-to-guy? Yeah. All Star? Long time coming. New outlook without Brandon? Sure. I still think this a different situation than per say, the Zach Randolph era. Back then with Cheeks I can remember Nick Van Exel saying: "we are gonna ride that horse. He is our horse (referring to Randolph). People say LaMarcus needs to bear the burden of this team constantly. I agree he is our best player and out go-to, but he is surrounded by capable players, unlike Randolph. So when we see those triple and double teams coming at LaMarcus, I think more so than 'pounding the ball' inside or playing thru him offensively as they say, I think it's his assists that will go up. He has proven his blocks, rebs, steals have all improved. He can stick it from anywhere as deep as the 3 point line, and he has a lot of post moves. That said, I think his All Star birth and his measuring stick as a leader will depend on how well his teammates on the floor will be able to grow with his game. If they read and feed off one another, he will be an All Star and this team will win games. I think his assists will be up and maybe his scoring down a little, but it will be his all round game and instinct to put teams away that people will see.

    I like him being our 'Batman' so to speak, I just don't want to see a pound it inside mentality, he is a different type of player than power forwards of Blazer past, and I think he is if not the best, in the top 3 in Blazer history. That said, I was not around in the 70's but i have seen footage.

    Nice work

    by Bull Frog on 1/16/2012 10:41 PM
  4. And LaMarcus' utility belt (post moves) are every bit worthy of a Dark Knight aka Batman.

    by Bull Frog on 1/16/2012 10:46 PM
  5. Who is gonna be Robin I and Robin II? Not totally defined yet, Go Blazers

    by Bull Frog on 1/16/2012 10:51 PM
  6. Casey: that third quarter was a sight for sore eyes, I kept yelling that is what I am talking about.
    @Bull Frog: I think if Nate starts using Batum more, he could become Robin 1, and could also live up to his name of Batman. or Batum the Batman because of his flying up and swatting word be dunks into the air.

    by Hg on 1/17/2012 5:55 AM
  7. Thanks Hg

    by Bull Frog on 1/17/2012 7:06 PM
  8. It has been an absolute privilege to watch Lamarcus develop as a player and as a man. Every time he takes another step forward like this, I just feel so proud of him. It is a good sign, in the midst of a confusing and painful process of adjustment for this team.

    by SisillaRiann on 1/18/2012 7:41 AM
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