LaMarcus Aldridge is unappreciated.
This blog will freely admit to adding to the pile of criticism that came when he seemingly wilted against Golden State right when the Spurs needed him most. Eventually — and I surmise this is what happened when Pop had a talk with him and accommodated his wishes — you have to realize he is who he is.
Pop is known for grinding his players and fashioning them to the player he wants them to be. He still does that with Murray and some of the younger guys. A player that is well-established like Aldridge? Nope.
There are few big men that can defend and be the primary scorer on any team, let alone a good team. Aldridge and DeRozan have a similar reputation for wilting when the lights get bright but given that Kawhi did not want to be here, there is not much choice is there?
There are maybe three or four guys in this league that can shine bright and bring a championship: Kawhi, Bron, Giannis …?
Okay maybe two. James Harden has playoff struggles (Manu block!) and even Anthony Davis could not bring his Pelicans sustained glory. Aldridge was incredible last night and that was mostly because his shot was falling.
The difference between LeBron and Kawhi and the rest of the stars is that they can overpower the defense with sheer physicality. This game is about athleticism and skill, sure, and when one is failing a great player can rely on the other half of it.
When Aldridge’s shot is not falling everyone from Shaq to your uncle wants him to go inside and bully his way to buckets. The thing is that Aldridge has never had the frame to do that against just anyone.
When it is falling? Well, he is exactly what you need to beat up on a mid-table side like OKC.