The Flash (less)
USA Today Sports
There is zero flash to LaMarcus Aldridge’s game. Absent a Dirk Nowitzki one-legged fadeaway; a Blake Griffin monster dunk; a Kevin Love two-handed full court outlet pass; or even a Chris Bosh primal scream in his repertoire, there’s nothing noticeable about Aldridge’s cache of moves that allows you to emulate and replay at the workplace water station. No Kevin Durant shimmy, Chris Paul scowl, LeBron James dance, or Kobe Bryant bottom-teeth snarl. And yet, the Aldridge bandwagon has slowly filled up with the same people that are in love with the viscerally gorgeous offense the Portland Trail Blazers run night in and night out.
Aldridge goes about his game the same exact way each and every game, in every year of his career. He hasn’t raised his three-point attempts just because that’s the way the league is heading. He didn’t play strict back-to-the-basket basketball because the likes of Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley – who fancied an old-fashioned type of game – advised him that was the “right” way to play. In fact, he went to work at the only place on the hardwood he knew how to – the dreaded area between the paint and the three-point line. The place where plays went to die; a space on the floor so despised in today’s Association that it’s caused players to become ostracized by bloggers, writers and analysts. Hell, even coaches have lost or acquired jobs because of it.
In his first full season as a starter, Aldridge shot 29.9 percent of his shots in the midrange area. This season, he’s taken 41.4 percent of his shots in an area where teams like the Miami Heat, Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns have altogether avoided. He’s the one-man Indiana Pacers offense in a vacuum. The amount of flash in his post game is akin to the amount of f****s given by Russell Westbrook on a basketball court. The ball stretches over his head when he spins over his right shoulder, causing his ostrich arms to make it seem as if a triangular zipline was forming between the ball and the basket. His wrist shot-puts the ball, with barely any elbow retraction, making the shot near-impossible to cover when taking into account his seven-foot frame.
Aldridge’s statistics have floated around the same percentages in every single season. Most would consider this a career year but the biggest positive/negative spike in his number have been the amount of shots attempted (a 3.4 uptick from last season). In fact, he’s shot the lowest percentage in his eight-year career, attempted the same number of free throws and has been as inefficient as his naysayers would lead you to believe. So why write so many words in positing Aldridge as such an invaluable, and engrossing, player to watch?
Because after years of stumbling around as the centerpiece of a struggling, and unlucky franchise, Aldridge has not changed his game to become someone he ultimately would not become. Functioning as the fulcrum of a three-point happy flow offense. the Blazers own the highest offensive rating in the freaking world. Teams respect the same midrange fadeaway he’s been shooting the moment his shoes grazed an NBA court – the same old nonchalant shot-put attempt, the unflashiness of his game that’s caused teams to try and rotate defenders, only to find themselves scrambling around under an avalanche of treys.
Not much has changed for Aldridge; except everything. And now, he’s in control of the best offense and the surprise Cinderella team in the NBA, with a chance to come out of a rugged Western Conference to challenge for the title. We won’t ever shoot a wadded used up paper towel into the trash can and yell “Aldridge!”. No kid will emulate a simple 17-footer during a pickup game. Oohs, aahs, and trademark moment come with the players that transcend the game. Aldridge might not do that, but his stubborn refusal to evolve into someone and something he simply isn’t has got him and his team this far. Comfortability has paved the road this far. MVP MVP MVP. LaMarcus Aldridge isn’t going to change now, even if everyone else in the world is starting to change their tune on him.
Statistical support for this piece provided by NBA.com, unless stated otherwise.