Damian Lillard says he respects LaMarcus Aldridge’s decision to leave for San Antonio

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Now that four of five starters are gone, the Portland Trail Blazers are unequivocally Damian Lillard’s team. He’s signed a five-year, $120 million extension that keeps him in Rip City until the 2021 season, and he’s now the longest-tenured Blazer, going into his fourth NBA season. When LaMarcus Aldridge left last week to sign with the Spurs, there was talk that the four-time All-Star power forward resented Lillard’s visibility as the face of the franchise. But Lillard said on Saturday that there are no hard feelings between them, and they’re on good terms:

From Yahoo’s Marc Spears:

Aldridge told Lillard he was leaving Portland before his final decision to sign with San Antonio became public.

“We basically exchanged texts about how much admiration we have for each other,” said Lillard, who signed a five-year, $120 million extension with the Blazers this week. “That change wasn’t about me. I did express that I wanted him to be back. I told him I respected his decision. I respected that he told me before the news broke and I saw it on TV.”

Was there anything more that Lillard or the Blazers could have done to keep Aldridge?

“I’m not sure there is,” Lillard said. “I think he needed a change and wanted to go some place where he felt he had a better chance to win.”

It’s hard to knock Aldridge’s decision. Going to San Antonio clearly wasn’t about the money, since the Blazers had the ability to offer him an extra year and around $30 million more than any other team. Aldridge wanted to be closer to his family in Texas, and he wanted to go where he had the best chance of winning. It’s hard to find a better organization to that end than the Spurs.

Lillard’s new-look Blazers will be young and full of upside, but they probably won’t win very many games next season.