There was a time when LaMarcus Aldridge was known as LaMarsha. Yes, his name morphed into a girl name, as a not-so- elaborate way to make fun of his game and the lack of strength involved with it. The young, lanky, gazelle-like third year NBA player was billed as a pillar of the future ‘two towers’ in Greg Oden and himself . Coming off of his first year, LA was poised to develop into the man who would establish the post for one of the youngest teams in the league. He did just that.
In his second season, LA had improved his scoring 100%, going from 9 PPG to 17.9 PPG. His rebounding improved and he played in more games and had more minutes than his rookie season. Granted, he had Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome that held him out of the final games of his rookie year, but he was headed in a positive direction.
Sadly, in his third season, his game seemed like it reached its plateau. Through the '08-'09 and '09-'10 seasons, he made little progress on the court compared to his first-to-second year rate. Rumblings were constant. "Why isn't LA going hard to the paint?," "What the heck is he doing out by the three point line?," "He's getting pushed out of position, where’s his strength?"
We all remember that dreaded '09-'10 season. So many players lost to injury. Lineups that featured Andre Miller, Martell Webster, LA and whatever warm body could suit up that night (not to discredit Cunningham, PenderBEAST and Old Man Juwan Howard).
Even with the thin roster we can still look back fondly (some of the time); LA grew up in that season, and not only out of necessity, but because he wanted to become the man. Over the off-season, the L-Train made stops through Weight Room Crossing and Kaleb Canales Workout Session Station. His ultimate goal was to become a better player for the team that needed him to be the supporting man they dealt for in the fateful ‘06 NBA Draft.
As the 2010-2011 season rolled up, we saw images of his growth.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Oct. 25, 2008.
LaMarcus Aldridge, present day.
Who was this man? Is this our starting power forward? Definitely; all grown up, heading into his prime.
LA had improved his scoring to 21.8 points per game, and 8.8 rebounds per game. Both career highs. He scored 40 and 42 points in games against the Spurs and Bulls, respectively. He was becoming the man in PDX.
The NBA All-Star game was making the proverbial call, and LA expected a ring. The coaches, however, selected the rookie, Blake Griffin. Yao Ming was declared out of the game, opening the door once again for the L-Train ... but sent in place was former Lake Oswego High School dominant man Kevin Love. It was as if the league had forgotten about LA completely. He was so close, and yet so far away for a man who fought so fiercely to put himself into the upper echelon of stardom.
Before the ‘11-‘12 season, LaMarcus had to work even harder, with the franchise in the balance. Brandon Roy's knees would not let him be the superstar we all expected and counted on, and Greg Oden's knees never even gave him a chance. On Dec. 9, 2011, the LA era officially began.
In a season of inconsistency, LaMarcus stands out as the consistent man. His scoring average has risen to 22.3 PPG and his field goal percentage is at a career high of 50.6%. His efficiency rating, an important statistic created by John Hollinger, sits at 23.81, and is good for ninth in the entire NBA. This puts him higher than All-Star 2012 starters Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin, Andrew Bynum and Carmelo Anthony. All above him, exception to Jeremy Lin, are All-Stars as well.
This makes perfect sense, yes? LaMarcus Aldridge was a shoo-in for the 2012 NBA All-Star game; and we were all saying give the man a round trip ticket to Orlando already.
Finally respect was delivered on Feb. 10, 2012, LaMarcus Aldridge was named to the Western Conference All-Stars for the first time in his career.
Sunday LaMarcus will show the world his skill set and why he deserves to be on the court with the best in the NBA, something we here in Portland have known for a lot longer. Which is why when I had a chance, I took a photo with him when we were both growing up.
It’s a bit small, but I’m on the far left. Yes, those are bunny ears over my head. Congratulations LA!