jbraxtoncooper

Feb 28

Blog Contest: Why We Love L.A.

By jbraxtoncooper Posted in: allstar, LaMarcusAldridge
There was an article on Oregonlive.com a few years ago regarding an alleged tiff between LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy that was evidently based on some sort of misunderstanding having to do with one of them not receiving an invitation to the other’s birthday party and a sort of silent grudge that had ensued but not lingered very long before the two managed to patch things up and put it all behind them. In other words, it was the anti-Kobe-v-Shaq feud: it didn’t play itself out tirelessly in the media, it didn’t threaten the team’s chemistry on court or in the locker room, and it eventually resolved itself quietly behind closed doors without any media fanfare. In the article, both admitted that the experience had, in fact, only strengthened their bond as friends and, more important, as teammates. I think most people (i.e. the three of us who actually remember the article) found it rather endearing, the fact that grown men ( 6’6” and 6’11” respectively) were nursing hurt feelings over birthday party invitations.  

Ultimately, it was little more than a blip on the radar screen, a non-story on a slow news day that most fans probably glossed right over, but at the time, it symbolized the changing of the guard here in Rip City. The medical-grade cloud left hovering over the team from the “Jail Blazers” era was finally dissipating, giving way to a new generation of young, infinitely-talented players with their heads screwed on straight.

Until last season, LaMarcus had always played in Roy’s shadow, and it bears mentioning that he never once questioned Nate’s offensive schemes, never tried to jockey for position as the franchise’s cornerstone player, even when it became abundantly clear that Roy’s deteriorating knees were adversely affecting his ability to carry the team on his shoulders night after night (including the first round playoff series versus Dallas a year ago as he categorically deferred to Roy, even as he had just put the finishing touches on an All-Star caliber season while Roy had been sidelined with unspecified knee injuries for a long stretch following the mid-season break). What LaMarcus did instead was simply bide his time, quietly and efficiently taking his game to the next level when his team needed him the most.

His game may not be spectacular, but I’ll settle for toughness and consistency any day of the week, and I suspect most Blazers fans would agree (the words “Tim Duncan” often come to mind when I think about his style of play). Since his sophomore season, he’s averaged around 18 points and 8 rebounds per game, while shooting 48-49 percent from the field, right up until last season when his numbers increased to 22 points per game while shooting an even 50 percent from the field.

It remains to be seen whether L.A. will be able to match Roy’s performance in the clutch. And in some ways he will remain in the shadow of Roy’s legacy of game-winning shots and impossible comebacks.

This makes it all the more important that we temper our expectations for our new franchise player. Few players on this planet are capable of the type of transcendent play that defined Roy’s abbreviated career. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that L.A. doesn’t come up big in the clutch. Quite the opposite, in fact. Thanks to Moneyball, these types of metrics are as fashionable as ever. According to a recent NBA.com article, this season L.A. is “3-for-3 on shots to tie or take the lead in the last 30 seconds of the fourth quarter or in overtime.” (LeBron, are you listening?)

Beyond the stat sheet, L.A. radiates a sort of subtle, effortless charm that gives the ladies (like my wife) the howling fantods. He manages to find the rather difficult balance between being a humble, hardworking individual and at the same time a fierce competitor. As my wife put it “there’s something deeply affable about him. He’s very positive. You want him to do well.”

Last weekend, all of this culminated in his very first All Star Game appearance, which despite a glaring lack of playing time, was a well-deserved, well-overdue recognition of his impact on this Blazers team. There’s no longer any doubt that he belongs among the ranks of the league’s most elite players and will likely remain there for many years to come.

1 Comments

  1. nice work. LaMarcus and Brandon arrived when we needed players -- and men -- like them. he's the first player i've had the priviledge to see evolve from being drafted to raising his game to becoming al all-star (not including Brandon, who was an immediate sensation for us). witnessing his evolution as a player has been wonderful.

    off the court he is beyond reproach. there's a proud contrast from when you see some nba players showing up in police blotters, and then you see a tweet from LaMarcus talking about enjoying a night watching Law & Order:SVU with his mom. he's also been by his mothers side as she battled cancer. he's a true class act.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 3/2/2012 2:05 PM
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