The story goes back to one week ago, when ESPN senior writer (and highly revered basketball mind) Zach Lowe published his annual 30 Crazy Predictions article, which included the possibility of the Spurs shopping Aldridge during the season. Lowe wrote:
“The Spurs are self-aware. I have a hunch they know this is something of a placeholder season, and that without some injury luck swinging their way at the right time, they are a tier below Golden State. Aldridge is 31, six years older than Kawhi Leonard, and his trade value will never be higher; he can opt out of his contract after the 2017-18 season.”The prediction didn’t make too many waves, and for good reason. After all, the writer had qualified the prediction as “Crazy” and, more importantly, he hadn’t alluded to any sources trumpeting the idea. Still, Lowe isn’t exactly the type to flippantly feed the rumor mill, so it stands to reason that he had perhaps spoken with someone within the league about it.
Then, yesterday, Boston-based ESPN reporter Jackie MacMullan went on a local sports show and casually meandered onto the idea that Aldridge may not be finishing the season in a Spurs jersey, per her league sources. Rumor was that the former Trail Blazer’s fit with the team was not as good as one or either party had hoped.
The Internet quickly ran with the story, indulging in as many hypothetical trade partners as reasons for why the story was bunk. Sources within the Spurs organization were quick to deny everything, while the Express-News heard from their source that the team was indeed open to trading Aldridge.
And so now, with less than a week to go before the regular season, we’re left somewhere in the middle of this great spectrum of possibilities.
There’s enough reason to think that Aldridge and the Spurs aren’t a perfect match. Aldridge is believed to have left Portland, in part, because he didn’t like the way he’d become second fiddle to teammate Damian Lillard, and now he’s not only in a secondary role to Kawhi Leonard but sharing a frontcourt with another featured player in Pau Gasol. From San Antonio’s point of view, Aldridge may not put them over the top for a championship now, and he may not have a role to play in the next title team. No, the team hasn’t confirmed the rumors of any discord, but let’s not forget that they abruptly waived Stephen Jackson in 2013 after it had become clear internally that things weren’t working out.
What does that mean for now? Most likely a quiet, wait-and-see approach for both sides. There won’t be any hasty decisions made, not with Aldridge’s value high (and likely to sustain for a while) and few ideal teams that we know of who are willing to make a deal. Still, it won’t keep people from speculating, especially if (when?) he or the Spurs struggle.
Aldridge famously deactivated his Twitter account last season following a poor high-profile performance against the Warriors as a means of reducing distractions. If things play out as they usually do on social media, that may not be a bad idea to revisit this year.