Another reason to love the 2007-2007 edition

I have been a big LaMarcus Aldridge fan since he came on board. I know I sound like a broken record...big Brandon Roy fan, big Martell Webster fan, big Travis Outlaw fan, big Jarrett Jack fan, big Joel Przybilla fan, becoming a big James Jones fan...but that is just one more thing to love about the Blazers. So many players to like. Aldridge is one more example. Last year I was hopeful he would get a few more minutes. This year I was ecstatic to see him not just starting but playing major minutes and being a focal point of the offense. It looks like he might develop into a 20+ points, 9 or 10 rebound guy in the coming years and be fun to watch. Best of all, he loves to play and it shows. He often has a big grin on his face even during the game and that is awesome to watch from a fan perspective.

In fact, the main issue I have with him is sometimes he is not aggressive enough with his offense. He does not demand the ball when the Blazers need a bucket or early in the game to establish himself. Even on nights where he misses his first shot or 2, he needs to demand the ball and make a move. It creates that possibility in the opposition's mind that he might be laying 25 on them and they have to adjust their defense. It opens the floor a bit for penetration by the guards and creates movement opportunities. Perhaps most important, it keeps him involved in the game. For all that, I think the other night when he did none of this is a prime example of why he is rapidly becoming one of my all-time favorite Portland Trailblazers.

The other night against a bad Seattle team, though they had nobody who could really stay with him, he started slowly. His first shot was missed, his second was a rebound shot...and then he disappeared. It was probably the worst game I have ever seen him play. He shot horribly (1-10), missed both free throws, had a low rebound total, did not block any shots, make any of his normal hustle plays on defense...on this one night he did not look like a good player, even though I have been arguing all year he is on the cusp of being a great player who can dominate in this league. In fact, he was not on the floor for the Blazers' stretch run despite it being a game that could have been lost with one good Seattle run.

So what is there to like about that? I am going to argue it was his reaction that makes him special. Aldridge is no prima donna. He did not complain about McMillan keeping him on the bench. He did not point fingers at his team mates for not getting him the ball often enough or in the right places. He said nothing about his numbers. He just cheered from the bench....and then, after the game, he went to work on his shot to see what was wrong with it.

That is AWESOME. That is a player who loves to play and wants to improve. That is a player who is happy his team is winning and wants to do his part, whatever that part is, to keep them on the winning track. That is a MAN in a league of sometimes spoiled children. That is a great teammate in a league full of Stephon Marburys, Allen Iversons, Kobe Bryants (although that one might be a cheap shot this year...he is passing a bit more...).

I love the mentality that he is not going to complain when he has a bad game, he is not going to argue with the coaches, he is not going to cry about it...he is just going to cheer on his teammates and then go to work to improve. I don't think it will be too much longer before you see his name in the All-Star line-up. Not this year...but that time is coming.

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