Trail Mix: LaMarcus Aldridge Targets Thursday Return, Then What?

(AP Photo/Darren Abate)

(AP Photo/Darren Abate)

The bad news: The Blazers just lost to the now 20-52 Orlando Magic.

The good news: LaMarcus Aldridge says he’s eyeing a comeback on Thursday against the Atlanta Hawks.

Casey Holdahl of has a transcript of LaMarcus Aldridge’s media session following Tuesday’s loss

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.”

Jason Quick of The Oregonian writes:

Aldridge on Tuesday said it will be different this time coming back from his injury. His two workouts Tuesday — the one before the meal and the one after — marked the third and fourth extended workouts, each around an hour to an hour and 15 minutes, he said.

“I’ve had more time this time to workout,’’ Aldridge said. “Last time I went from nothing to full speed to playing. This time it’s more of a transition period of: ‘Let’s see you run; let’s see you shoot.’ So I’ve worked out the last three, four days. More stationary shooting and minimal movement, but I’ve had more time to find my rhythm. Last time, I went from sitting on my couch and I couldn’t move, to playing.’’

There are still two hurdles to clear before Aldridge returns. He has yet to absorb contact on his backside, and he said he still experiences pain when he runs.

To recap, Aldridge wants to come back on Thursday and he’s been working out pretty hard but still feels pain when he tries to run. The Blazers desperately need him on the boards because they’ve been one of the worst rebounding teams in the league lately.

Via’s Chris Haynes, Robin Lopez basically had a call to action to Portland’s star:

Center Robin Lopez didn’t hold back about how he feels about Aldridge’s contribution to the team.

“We need L.A.,” Lopez said. “In order for us to be at our best, he has to be on the court with us. He’s our leader.”

Aldridge says he’s been getting better each passing day. The Trail Blazers are 3-4 since he took that hard fall in San Antonio on Mar. 12. He admitted that he didn’t think it would take this long. He wanted to play tonight, but the pain was too severe when he tried to run.

Teams have been single-covering him as noted by Grantland’s Zach Lowe and he’s going to to have to find ways to make teams pay. Whether that’s getting to the line more and getting into the teeth to collapse the defense and force shooters to come open, we’ll have to see.

Quick also had a good column about keeping the Blazers recent stretch in perspective, writing that regular season momentum doesn’t always carry over:

 In 2009, the Trail Blazers entered the playoffs as the hottest team in the league. They had won six in a row and 10 of 11, the 10 wins coming by an average of 19.2 points, and four of the wins coming over West playoff teams by an average of 17 points. Down the stretch, they smoked the top-seeded Lakers, second-seeded Nuggets and third-seeded Spurs.

The Blazers, it could be said, had all the momentum heading into the playoffs.

Yet, in Game 1 of their series against Houston, they mysteriously chose not to front 7-foot-6 center Yao Ming. In a matter of minutes for the Blazers, all that momentum, all those big wins down the stretch, meant nothing. Houston raced to an 11-2 lead, with Yao scoring nine of those points, and later the Rockets had made 15 of their first 18 shots en route to a 108-81 win at the Rose Garden. The Blazers never recovered in the series and were upset.

“You can have all the momentum in the world going into the playoffs and you lose Game 1 of that series and momentum has shifted,’’ coach Terry Stotts said. “Look, it’s a good feeling when everyone has momentum, has confidence. You want that and you want to ride it. Ultimately, you have to fight through some tough times, too.’’

I put a fresh set of eyes to the tape of last night’s loss in Orlando and here are some notes:

  • Victor Oladipo deserves the gameball. Sure, he went 5-of-16 from the field but good things happened even when he missed. Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic both benefitted from missed lay-ups to get putbacks. He also had six assists, five rebounds and three steals and I’m now filing papers for the Pacific Northwest Victor Oladipo Fan Club.
  • Orlando also deserves kudos for the defensive execution as noted by Evan Dunlap over at Orlando Pinstriped Post. In addition to the points made about their focus at taking away early three-pointers which are key to Portland’s offense their help to the strongside was phenomenal. The Magic’s help defenders were bumping cutters and rolls to the rim and allowing few easy pathways. The Blazers missed a lot of shots they normally make which always causes more panic than it is worth but the Magic deserve kudos for a great defensive game.
  • The Blazers were also very lazy. You could almost see that they were going to their first read on every play call. Some pick and rolls, some post-ups and dump offs fell into Orlando hands. Stotts called out their execution and he should. Everybody was a culprit although Nicolas Batum (6) and Damian Lillard (3) had the majority of the turnovers. Also, I love what Thomas Robinson can bring with his energy but he should not be trying to sling one handed bounce passes between two defenders down by 10. The Blazers were forcing the issue against Orlando rather than taking what’s there that made them successful in the first place.

Baron Davis also channelled former NBA star Michael Ray Richardson last night on Inside The NBA as he said the Blazers’ “Ship Be Sinkin’.”

Hat-tip to Ben Golliver at Blazersedge for the video. He has the comments transcribed if you’re into that type of thing. As far as how far the ship can sink, Michael Ray Richardson once said “Sky’s the limit.” Shout-out to Sports Editor Micah Rice for learning me on that legendary quote just yesterday. Perfect timing, Baron.

Via’s Casey Holdahl, ESPN’s Jalen Rose and Avery Johnson still feel that the Blazers are a success no matter what happens the rest of the way:

Rose: The Blazers have outplayed expectations regardless to what happens with the remainder of their season. Teams like Portland and Phoenix, we hate to acknowledge that there are more victories in sports where teams can’t have successful seasons that didn’t win it all. Well, those two teams have had successful seasons regardless of what happens in the playoffs because they’ve outplayed expectations. Damian Lillard has emerged and became an All-Star, so much so he did every event during All-Star Weekend.

And LaMarcus Aldridge has continued to develop. He’s got a better post-game. He’s able to rebound in traffic. So I really like what Portland has done with their team. I would not be surprised if they didn’t make the playoffs still because the West is that tight. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did make the playoffs and lost in the first round. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that I think they’re having a terrific season.

Johnson: I always liked the addition of Mo Williams and his experience and what he’s brought to the team. They’re just fun to watch.  A lot of times if they weren’t playing in Portland, if they were playing in New York City, people would respect this team even more. They’re just fun to watch. They play great offense. Obviously, I’ve always talked about how their defense needed to improve. But they rebound the basketball and they’re a pretty good passing team. So they’re fun to watch.
I think Portland is a team that whatever happens in the playoffs, I still have them making the playoffs. But whatever happens, whether they make it or not, they have had an outstanding year, and I would consider this a check for the Portland Trail Blazers and a year that their fans could be proud of their team.

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Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen is the Trail Blazers beat reporter for The Columbian. He's a graduate of the Allen School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon in addition earning a degree in Spanish. He's covered the NBA for four seasons. You can also occasionally find his work on's NBA section for their TrueCities series. He also fist-bumped with Kanye West once. Follow @BlazerBanter on twitter for more Blazers and NBA news.

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