Pat Riley’s pitch was a long shot and he knew it — he asked LaMarcus Aldridge to take the mid-level exception for one year with the Miami Heat then re-sign for a max salary in one season (that according to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel). The pitch was joining Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and Goran Dragic — guys who would all be willing to sacrifice to win.
But that pitch had an unintended impact — it pushed Aldridge closer to the Spurs, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports in a must-read opus on how Aldridge ended up a Spur.
“He told me, ‘You’re a good player, but you can be great,’ ” Aldridge told Yahoo. “I’ve had good seasons on my own, but to win, you’ve got to have other big-time guys with you. When you have other guys who are willing to take that sacrifice with you – maybe you all go from averaging 23-24 points to 18-19 points – and you can all do it together.
“He was saying, ‘Hey, you might have to take a lesser role, but at the end of the day, you want to be known as a champion. Champions have to do different things.’ He brought up Chris Bosh, how he was averaging 21 in Toronto, and came to Miami, and people tried to say he wasn’t important. He told me, ‘We don’t win any of those championships rings without him,’ [and] that [Bosh] wouldn’t trade those rings for anything.
“Eventually, it becomes a road in your career, whether you have to decide whether you want to keep having these crazy stats, or do you want to win a championship?”
That is essentially what Popovich and the Spurs had preached — this was where he could win, where he could be part of a family, but it meant not always being “the man.” Aldridge had long felt he had been second in the hearts of Portland — behind Brandon Roy then Damian Lillard — and he wanted to be out of the shadows of others. However, Riley and Popovich told him if he wanted to win he had to forget about shadows entirely.
Aldridge realized Riley was right. It sank in and Aldridge understood what he wanted was that family experience and a chance to win. But not in Miami, in his home state of Texas. In San Antonio.
The fit is still being worked out with Aldridge as a Spur, but they look like the second-best team in the West right now and a real threat to come out of the conference. If that happens, the Spurs should thank Riley.