The date is Sunday, February 26th 2012. It was the final event of all star weekend, and the one that Blazers fans were looking forward to most. Rip City was going to be well represented again by first timer LaMarcus Aldridge. Introduced as captain of the Portland Trail Blazers, LaMarcus humbly accepted the applause as he always does. After Nicki Minaj mercifully left the stage, the NBA All-Star starters took it. After weeks of agonizing wait, the game tipped off and Aldridge was that much closer to showing the world why he deserved this spot on the team. Through the first quarter we saw Kobe inch closer to MJ’s All Star points mark, and a Chris Paul to Blake Griffin lob city connection, one of 5 beautiful first quarter assists by Chris Paul. But something was missing. LMA had no minutes in the first quarter. It seemed clear that he would get 8 or 9 second quarter minutes, a thought only strengthened by the fact that I saw the golden number 12 on the court early in the second quarter. Right out of the gates he got his first all star game rebound. Over a full minute later, he would get his first two points of his all star career, a nice turnaround jumper over Andre Igoudala.
LaMarcus Aldridge gets his first two points in the 2012 All Star Game
Then, seemingly as soon as the L-Train left the station, he got put right back there. He ended the game with just four points on 2 of 5 shooting with a rebound and an assist. He was given less than ten minutes, and during those minutes he was not even offered a lob pass. All of this had to upset the man who felt snubbed last year and worked extremely hard to reach this goal this year. And it would have upset anybody who was less humble. After the game, Aldridge told Mike Tikito of the Oregonian, “That was tough, but you know, first one. I can’t play 30 minutes my first time here.” Adding later, “It’s tough to play these minutes. But it’s all about growing and gradually getting better.” After reading that article, I felt at peace with the low playing time. I also felt like there was nobody more deserving of more minutes. There is always next year, but that is not where his focus is. His focus is in the here and now. There is a crucial stretch coming up including Denver, Miami, Indiana, New York, Chicago, and Oklahoma City. Only the Miami game is at home. Right this minute, Aldridge is not thinking about starting next years all star game, or even the possibility of being on the Olympic basketball team. It is about getting the next piece of hardware on his agenda. The hardware that eluded John Stockton, Karl Malone, Reggie Miller, and Dominique Wilkins. He wants an NBA championship ring. A long stretch against great teams is going to make or break the theory that the Blazers can win it all this year. At the half way point of the season, this is where his focus must be. So while I congratulate LaMarcus on his All Star Game appearance, and give my appreciation as a fan for what he has done for the franchise, I leave you with this. Play with the heart of a champion and you will get that All Star Starting position. You will get that Olympic gold medal. You WILL get the NBA championship. No matter what happens, you always have my respect both as a player and as a person. Show me a Rose Garden stadium during a Blazers home game, and I will show you 20,000+ with the same sentiment. Thank you, and congratulations LaMarcus Aldridge.
Aldridge is hoping this isn’t the only ring he gets this year.