At this point in the NBA season, nothing is going to ever surprise me. In the past week we’ve seen Oklahoma City lose to Washington and the Miami Heat lose to Milwaukee at home, so it’s pretty clear anything can happen. And to Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge, it seems fair to believe that every team is going to go through some lumps.
The Trail Blazers are still 9-7 and in the thick of things in a wide-open Western Conference, but they’ve lost five of their last seven games. Aldridge will likely have to be the guy to pull them through the rough spell as he’s become their go-to guy.
LaMarcus Aldridge joined 590 The Fan in Toronto with Norm Rumack to discuss where the Blazers are at right now, overcoming the losses of some key players to injury, the early schedule, the Western Conference race, playing for Nate McMillan and developing into a go-to player in the NBA.
You guys are 9-7, but just 2-5 over the last seven games. How do you feel about this team?:
“We have a lot of weapons, a lot of guys that can make things happen. Every season, you’re always going to go through tough patches and we just had ours early this year. We’re going to find our rhythm and get better.”
On the team still succeeding despite losing some star-caliber players to injuries:
“We have a bunch of guys that can play and we’ve kind of gotten used to having guys in and out over the years due to an injury. I think guys are used to having their roles fluctuate to more or less. I definitely have to take on a bigger leadership role now that we’ve lost those guys. I have to try to be more of a vocal leader and be a go-to guy.”
How hard has the schedule been for you and the team?:
“I don’t think you should need any extra motivation to get geared up. This is our job, what we love to do. Me, personally, I don’t need anything extra to be ready to go. I think the short training camp did have an effect on execution and having better rhythm, but we’re going to figure it out.”
Do you think the Western Conference is pretty wide open?:
“It is. I think that teams are going to have ups and downs, definitely, during this season. … Just looking at the Spurs, they had a big win and lost by 30. The Bulls had a big win and they lost by 30. We had a big win and then we lost by 20 to Phoenix. I just think it’s going to be ups and downs this season because it’s so many games.”
Has Denver surprised you?:
“No, they played good last year. They have a bunch of good guys that have played together. They have all the pieces. … I’m definitely not surprised by those guys.”
What’s it like to play for Nate McMillan?:
“He coaches one way — you play hard and go out and compete every night and you can play. He’s a winning coach so he doesn’t want anyone out there not playing winning basketball, not playing defense. If you go do the things to win, then you can play.”
How much do you like being this team’s go-to guy?:
“I think it was a blessing. I’m not shying away from it. It’s still a work in progress. I’m still getting better, trying to get better every night, getting better late in games. But it’s a process and you have to learn how to do it and that’s what I’m doing now.”