There have been signs pointing to the fact that if nothing else, LaMarcus Aldridge will seriously consider leaving the Portland Trail Blazers as an unrestricted free agent this summer.
A credible report surfaced which said Aldridge was more likely to leave than people realize; a teammate put Aldridge’s chances of staying at no better than 50-50; Aldridge isolated himself from teammates during the playoffs by flying back home from a game in Memphis all by himself.
As Aldridge prepares to weigh his options, it was originally believed the Spurs would be the most likely of teams able to convince him to make the jump — but that may no longer be the case.
Aldridge did not respond to messages seeking comment, nor did Blazers GM Neil Olshey. But sources from both sides of their relationship confirmed two significant points: First, Aldridge isn’t feeling the same way he did last summer when he publicly stated his intention of signing an extension with the Blazers this summer; second, there isn’t a clear-cut better situation for him than what he has in Portland.
Of his potential suitors, league sources indicate that the Mavericks are the biggest threat to pull Aldridge away from the Blazers, but it’s the general idea of returning to Texas, not a specific destination, that appeals to him. Both the Mavericks and Spurs, of course, could have the requisite cap space, reputation of success and location.
Both also may not be perfect fits. Several sources have indicated that the Spurs, for whatever reason, are either off his list or not very high on it. And the question concerning Dallas is: Does an aging Dirk Nowitzki truly give him a better chance of competing for a title? Dallas, sources say, is clearly interested, but where he sits on its priority list is not clear.
If the motivation is to return to Texas, then the reality is that either the Mavericks or the Spurs provide an opportunity for success, along with a fresh start. San Antonio is on the verge of an identity change, with the futures of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili in question for next season, and that of Gregg Popovich similarly up in the air when looking a few years ahead.
Dallas, meanwhile, is aggressive on the free agent front in advance of every season, and ownership there has consistently done what’s necessary to piece together a more-than-competitive roster. Additionally, Rick Carlisle is one of the game’s top head coaches, and assistant coach Caleb Kanales has a relationship with Aldridge from his time in Portland as a member of the coaching staff for several seasons.
Plenty can happen between now and July 1, and the Blazers can still offer millions more on a max deal than Aldridge can earn by playing anywhere else. But signs continue to point to the reality that he is going to consider it.