Interview: Aldridge on season, new contract, criticism, thick skin
Part one of a transcript of an interview conducted Tuesday with Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge at the team’s workout facility in Tualatin, Ore.
Aldridge on his season thus far and adjusting to change:
I think I have tried to adjust to a lot of circumstances this season. I think coming in, my role wasn’t as dramatic as it is now. Having Brandon (Roy), having Andre (Miller), having Greg (Oden), I really wasn’t — I wouldn’t say as important — but I really wasn’t; what I do now really needed as much in the beginning. But I think this season, I’ve grown a lot, growing through that stretch without Brandon, it kind of gave me more confidence and it kind of helped me figure out how to play against double teams. I think I’ve seen every double team. Going through that stretch, I’ve seen fronts … and that kind of helped me grow, as I know how to deal with every type of double team, where I won’t turn it over. And I think also, it helped build confidence within my team, to say, ‘OK. He can do this. Let’s play off of him. Let’s give him the ball.’ I think that showed them, ‘OK. He can do this. So, why not do it until Brandon comes back? I have someone I can really play with, and if I’m not feeling it or it takes me time to get back in a rhythm, I can play off him, too.’
On beginning the season being surrounded by contract talk and the issue almost being forgotten now:
Yeah, you right. I think that’s a symbol of the things we’ve been through this year. I think that’s like a far-distant memory for all of us. Losing Greg and losing Joel (Przybilla), that kind of seems far now. And then Brandon being out. I think this team and this city has been through so much, that it’s like that was kind of the focal point in the beginning, because there was so much positive things. Now, it’s been so much negative that people don’t even think about that no more.
On how this season has been for him personally:
My life is pretty much the same. I don’t think anything has changed. I still live the same way. I still keep my family first. But I think on the court, you kind of learn that you have to kind of, what is it?, where like a hardhat, you know? Because, in the beginning, I signed the contract, and my role wasn’t as needed. So, then it’s like, ‘OK. We give him this money.’ … But fans don’t see that, though. Fans are like, ‘We just gave him all this money, and he’s not even averaging what he averaged last year.’ So, it’s like, OK. You have to kind of learn to keep a hardhat and take things with a grain of salt. I think I’ve learned this year more, as long as my team know I’m not selfish, that I’m playing hard and I’m doing what I have to do for the team — whether it’s sacrificing my role or upping my role — as long as my teammates know I’m doing what they need, that’s all that matters. Because you can’t really listen to the fans all the time, because they don’t know what’s really going on in house, and they don’t know what the team needs.
On learning that more this year than before:
Of course. Because I’ve never had a contract signed. So, before it was like, ‘We think L.A. can do this.’ And I think I’ve proved over the last couple years what I can do. So, now it’s like I’ve been paid, so it’s like, ‘OK. He’s making his money, so he should do this every night.’ But I’m the type of guy where, if we’re winning and doing something, and I don’t have to do 20 points a night, then I’m not going to do it, because I’m about winning. I think I’ve learned that some people don’t understand the game, as far as, if I’m the fourth option, I’m not going to average 18 or 20 points. I’m just going to average enough to make us win. And I think I’ve learned that more this year, because I never have been in the position of having a big contract and then people wanting you to do the same thing every night.
On whether there was a point when the criticism got to him:
I never really read media. I think if you talk to any of the reporters, they’ll be like, ‘Did you see the article?’ And I’ll be like, ‘I don’t read the paper.’ Because most of the time, the paper is for bad news more than good news. So, I’ve never really been into it. But you just happen to hear things that people say — through friends, and your mom might be like, ‘I was walking; I was listening to the radio and they said this.’ But I think I’ve always been reserved, because you never know what people have in store; if they have your best interests at heart. And I think at the end of the day, this is a business. So, it’s like, you have to protect yourself. And I think I’ve learned to have thicker skin. I think I’ve learned not to take things so personal, because some people don’t understand, really. I used to take it personal in the beginning when I signed my contract, when people would be like, ‘He got all this money but then he’s not averaging what he averaged last year.’ I would call my mom and say, ‘Well, I’m not the same option I was last year.’ (Because) it’s like, I don’t want to start no media ruckus. I would talk to my mom about it and my brother and my high school coach, and try to vent to them. And they would be like, ‘I really don’t understand your position, but just stay grounded and just pray about it.’ But I’ve learned to have thicker skin. And I’ve learned that if my teammates trust me and they know I’m doing the right thing, that’s all that matters.
On a new level of comfort and confidence coming with his thicker skin:
It does make you more confident. When things are not going well, I always can look at myself. And when people are saying things that are not true, I always know my character and I know that my teammates know I’m of good character and my No. 1 goal is winning. So, I don’t ever worry about hearing anything. I can have tunnel vision when the media want to bash you. So, it’s just — I’ve learned to have tunnel vision, really. When you put it like that. I’ve learned to kind of see what they’re saying but know, ‘OK. This is my goal. I’m going to stay focused on my goal.’ Because this year has been interesting. Even (a reporter) put an article out, you know? So, it’s been very, very interesting. But I’ve learned with more accolades and contracts comes more criticism. It’s people from looking from the outside and putting judgment and not really knowing the whole situation and knowing what’s going on with the team and everything like that. They’re just guessing from the outside in, and not knowing what’s really going on.
Check Monday’s Columbian for an in-depth feature about Aldridge.