UPDATE: According to the team, LaMarcus Aldridge (low back contusion) has upgraded to questionable vs. Atlanta. He will be a game-time decision.
Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge took questions from the media regarding his lower back contusion and his hopes of returning to the court for Portland’s game versus the Hawks in Atlanta on Thursday. Aldridge, who has missed the last seven games since taking a hard fall during Portland’s 103-90 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on March 12, discussed where he’s currently at with the injury, not being able to run without pain, the difficulty of watching the Blazers struggle from the bench and whether or not he thinks the Blazers are in danger of missing the playoffs.
LaMarcus Aldridge: “Running isn’t normal yet. Trying to stride out and run hasn’t felt normal. It’s felt better the last couple days. A back contusion messes with your S.I. joint and messes with your running. The last couple days have been better, so that’s been positive.”
Has the situation the team finds itself in accelerated your desire to get back?
LaMarcus Aldridge: “I wanted to play tonight, but I can’t run. So if you can’t run, what do you do? I’ve been wanting to come back. I didn’t think it would take this long but it ended up being more serious than we thought it was. I’ve just been trying to get back out there. It’s a process. We’ve done everything that we can do, the medical staff and myself. I’m going to work out tomorrow and then see how it feels.”
Do you think you might be able to play?
LaMarcus Aldridge: “Yeah. I say I’m trying to go no matter what. If I look good enough to play, then I’m going to play. It’s on the medical staff.”
When you look at this team, what do you see happening?
LaMarcus Aldridge: “Guys are tired. It’s a tough road trip and our shots aren’t falling right now. Guys are competing and playing hard, playing the right way. It’s just guys are tired. Hopefully I can try to come back next game and try to help out with that. Guys are playing hard, it’s just our shots are not falling and guys are just tired.”
When you came back from your hip injury you kept saying you were trying to get into a rhythm.
LaMarcus Aldridge: “I’ve had more time this time to workout. Last time I went from nothing to full speed to playing. This time it’s been more of a transition period of, let’s see you run, let’s see you shoot. I’ve worked out the last three to four days. It’s been more stationary shooting and minimal movement, but I’ve had more time to really find my rhythm. Last time I went from sitting on my couch and could move to playing. This time it’s been more of a transition period, so I think I’ll be fine.”
Your shot feels good?
LaMarcus Aldridge: “My shot feels great. It’s not really my game that I’m worried about, it’s just being able to move. My lateral quickness seems fine. It’s just running cause I hit that spot and when you flex back your glut it touches that spot that I really knocked on the floor. That’s my only worry.”
Is there a fear of this team not making the playoffs?
LaMarcus Aldridge: “I mean, it’s a sense of urgency to get wins, as it should be. We’ve definitely let ourselves slide too far and we all want to get wins right now and we understand the magnitude of trying to take care of business right now. So I think everybody knows the importance of winning right now.”
You say you can’t run, so going up and down is an issue?
LaMarcus Aldridge: “It’s gotten better. The last two days, it’s been better, but it’s not normal. I still had discomfort running and that’s why I wasn’t out there. I couldn’t really move but the last two days have been great.”
Have they banged on you at all to recreate what you’re going to get in a game?
LaMarcus Aldridge: “That’s tomorrow (laughs).”
How do you think that’s going to go?
LaMarcus Aldridge: “I think it’s going to go good. I’m hoping it’s going to go good. I don’t know. We’ll see.”
Have you been medically cleared to play?
LaMarcus Aldridge: “No I haven’t.”
Was the plan when this trip started was to come back against Atlanta?
LaMarcus Aldridge: “No it wasn’t.”
Was there a plan in your mind when you wanted to come back?
LaMarcus Aldridge: “No, it’s about when I could run and play. I feel like I’m getting close to that point so that’s what we’re going to try.”
Does the fact that the team is losing right now …
LaMarcus Aldridge: “Makes me want to play even worse? Yes it does. But it’s not about me, it’s about the medical staff and them saying I can play. I’ve been wanting to play but obviously if you can’t move then you can’t play.”
Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is currently holding his annual youth basketball camp in Beaverton, and unlike some of these events put on by other players, Lillard is there actually there working with the kids every day. If you send your child to the Damian Lillard Basketball Camp, he or she is going to meet Damian Lillard.
But even though the focus is on the kids, Lillard took a few minutes to take questions from the media about the camp, his recent trip to Asia, working with Special Olympics, the upcoming free agent signing period on his involvement with recruiting and why he declined to to play for Team USA.
Regarding the Damian Lillard Basketball Camp experience…
“When I get up there and speak, I tell them ‘Make sure you thank your parents, make sure you listen to the coaches, follow their instructions, be coachable, work hard.’ Just simple things like that, a lot of basic things that could teach them a lot more than how simple it is, things like that. Just being here and having a presence is the biggest thing. The session that you guys just watched, it’s something that I’ve enjoyed because it allows me to kind of break apart the game for the kids. For them it might be a little bit boring, but it’s 10 minutes of the day where they get to listen and see what’s going on, that it’s deeper than just a pass and a shot. Some of them are probably too young to follow it as well as the older ones, but I think it’s something that you can really teach them at a young age.”
On his relationship with Special Olympics…
“When I was 17, when I first got on campus at Weber State, it was a mandatory thing, we did a one day camp with Special Olympics. The first day I kind of just went in there, I didn’t really know much about it. But then I saw that some of them, they wanted to play against us and they could actually play. They had as much passion with the game as I did, they really enjoyed our company. I’ll never forget, it was a random day like months after the Special Olympics event and there was a kid — I’ll never forget his name — Jason Depper. I was at the mall and he walked up to me at the mall like ‘Remember I made that shot on you?’ and I was just like ‘That’s funny.’ It had that type of impact on him. I’ve been involved ever since.”
On his recent trip through Asia with adidas…
“It was fun, did some pop-ups at stores. I went to some 3-on-3 tournaments, watched a lot of kids play. They’re playing so they can all make it to Beijing and it’s like a super tournament over there right now. I did some promotion for my shoes and things like that, I went back to a store that I opened up after my rookie year in Taipei, I went back to Manila. We did a huge event there, I got to get in the three-point shootout, they let me perform a couple times over there. It was kind of on the spot performances, but I had a lot of fun.”
Why he decided not to be a part of the 2016 Olympic team…
“It was simple: the last three months of the season I played with plantar fasciitis and it really bothered me. There was days the games seemed like the only time I could play, and that was adrenaline and two hours of treatment before the game. I didn’t want to go into next season dealing with it. I actually really wanted to play and I was really close to saying ‘Just forget it, I’m going to go’ but I didn’t want to go to Rio and come back a month before training camp and my foot still be bothering me, then I can’t give what I want to give to my team. That was just more important to me.”
On free agency…
“I think there’s some guys out there that can really help take our team to the next level. I really like the guys we have, too. I’m a strong believer that if guys go home and get better over the summer, we come back, we’ll be that much better. We’ll continue to get better. But my job is to make sure that I’m prepared and when I’m asked about a player that can help us, I’m going to give my honest opinion. That’s my duty to our team.”
His thoughts on Portland’s free agency plan…
“I’m excited, because it’s not hard to see… Our whole roster could look at free agency and say ‘This guy could help us, this guy could help us.’ It’s just a matter of how bad they want to be here, what we have to offer compared to what they would like. We’ll see where it goes. I have no doubt that our team is going to be ready regardless of who we bring in, who we don’t bring in. We’ll come back ready.”
Whether he’s going to help recruit free agents in person…
“Maybe. Maaaaaaybe… I might. To help our team, of course.”
Regarding what he’d tell free agents who might have “red flags” about joining Portland’s locker room…
“When I speak to these guys, I’m going to tell them what it is with our team on how we do things, what will be tolerated and what won’t. If we happen to get someone that has red flags, we don’t know for sure if that’s ‘he said, she said’ or if it’s real or if it’s the situation or people around him or what. But if it comes to our culture and our individual, it will be addressed. Nobody going to back down to nobody, let somebody come in here and think something is going to change, because it’s not. That’s not just me. I’m going to be the first one to say something because that’s just what it is. I know CJ (McCollum) is going to back that up and each guy down the line is going to back that up. We show up every day to practice to work, we show up on time, we hold each other accountable, we allow our teammates to hold us accountable and that’s the bottom line. We don’t do cute stuff, we show up and do what we’ve got to do and that’s it. If you don’t want to do it, it’s not going to work.”
Greetings fans of NBA offseason news. With the 2106 Draft now completed and the free agent moratorium less than 48 away, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the Moda Center studio to record yet another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
This week, Trail Blazers power forward Meyers Leonard joins the show to discuss his travels around Oregon this offseason, rehabbing from the shoulder surgery that prematurely ended his 2015-16 season, “sprint mechanics” and his upcoming restricted free agency. As for the rest of the show, we briefly recap Portland’s draft night, which netted the team Maryland forward Jake Layman, discuss what we know about the negotiations regarding the team’s television rights and discuss the unpredictability that is free agency.
The relationship between Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver predates both of their current occupations. When the two first sat down for a interview back in 2010, McCollum had not yet been drafted by the Trail Blazers with the 10th overall pick of the 2012 Draft (though that would happen later that night) and Silver, while already tabbed to take over for outgoing commissioner David Stern, was still pulling duty as deputy commissioner.
Every year since then, McCollum and Silver have met up in New York City after the end of the season to discuss topics pertaining to the NBA and society in general. In 2014, they discussed the situation with the previous Los Angeles Clippers ownership, the age limit, emerging technologies, Silver’s first year as the NBA’s head honcho and their favorite Jay-Z tracks. In 2015, McCollum, armed with a few seasons of experience and a new job at The Players’ Tribune, followed up on some of the questions from the year before regarding the age limit while also bringing up issues such as ads on jerseys, transparency in officiating and head injuries.
And in their fourth annual interview, released on The Players’ Tribune as a part of McCollum’s summer internship with the athlete-owned website, the two discuss how far they’ve come (or in CJ’s case, how much weight he’s lost) since their first meeting in 2012, Silver’s handshakes, whether the NBA would have their All-Star Weekend at “remote locations” like the NFL, whether the league is considering moving the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, the 2016 NBA Finals and the suspension of Draymond Green and recent efforts to increase diversity in NBA front offices. You can watch an excerpt of the interview in the above video, or read the entire Q&A over at The Players’ Tribune.