San Antonio Spurs head coach Greg Popovich candidly discussed the offseason trade request made by forward LaMarcus Aldridge, admitting that it not only shocked him, but was the catalyst of a better understanding between the coach and player.
“When he [Aldridge] said, ‘I want to be traded'” Popovich said (h/t ESPN) when asked about what led to Aldridge’s resurgence this season.
“It’s as simple as that,” Popovich said. “I said, ‘Whoa, nobody’s ever said that to me before.’ It’s my 20-whatever year, and nobody’s ever said that, like, ‘I’m not enjoying this. I’m not confident. I’m not sure you want me here. I want to be traded.'”
Aldridge talked about the conversation prior to the season, in an interview with ESPN, stating that he “just spilled my heart about how I felt about how things were, and how things had been going.”
“So we had some dinners and meetings and laughed,” Popovich said. “I was very candid with him. I told him, ‘I’d be happy to trade you. You get me a talent like Kevin Durant, and I’ll drive you to the airport. I’ll pack your bags. And I will drive you there, get you on the plane, and get you seated.’ He laughed, you know, that kind of thing.
“I said, ‘But short of that, I’m your best buddy because you’re here for another year, and you ain’t going nowhere. Because we’re not gonna get for you talentwise what we would want. So, let’s figure this thing out.’ And we did. That’s what we came to.”
Aldridge has rebounded from a rough start with the Spurs, averaging 25.3 points over his past eight games, and notching four double-doubles over his last five games.
“As discussions went on, it became apparent to me that it really was me,” Popovich said. “He’d been playing in the league for nine years. I’m not going to turn him into some other player. I could do some things defensively or reboundingwise. But on offense, I was going to move him everywhere. That was just silly on my part — total overcoaching. So, we took care of it, and he’s been fantastic.”
Spurs’ Rudy Gay Says Team Has Chip on Their Shoulder
San Antonio Spurs veteran forward Rudy Gay says that DeMar DeRozan won’t be the only player on the team that will be playing with a chip on their shoulder or having something to prove this upcoming season.
“That’s the thing about this whole team – everybody has a chip on his shoulder,” Gay said, according to Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News.
“His is just more publicized. But, look, I’m healthy (and have something to prove), LaMarcus (Aldridge) always finds some way to have a chip on his shoulder. Jakob (Poeltl) wants to prove he can be a great player. DJ (Dejounte Murray) has a chip on his shoulder because he wants to be known as one of the best at his position.”
DeRozan may have the biggest chip of any player on the team when considering he was blindsided by his trade from the Toronto Raptors earlier this offseason, a move that left the veteran feeling betrayed.
San Antonio could surprise some people this season, as they aren’t discussed among the teams that are Western Conference playoff caliber teams, and that omission could fuel the fire for the team this upcoming season.
Spurs’ Rudy Gay Raves About Team Culture
Gay’s perspective on the situation is unique, and he lauds the Spurs organization and team culture.
“The best part about San Antonio, they do right by you,” Gay said, according to Dom Amore of The Hartford Courant.
“They do right by their players, do right by their staff. That doesn’t happen much in the NBA, to be honest with you. It doesn’t happen much.
On one side, there was [Leonard] that was trying to get out, get to a bigger market, and they were totally being up front with him, and then they trade him for a guy [Demar DeRozan] where, that organization wasn’t being up front with him at all.
So, I mean, it’s just night and day. That trade right there shows you the difference between the San Antonio Spurs and other organizations.”
Raptors President Masai Ujiri Apologizes for ‘Miscommunication’ with DeMar DeRozan
“I had a conversation with DeMar at summer league, and I really want to leave it at that,” Ujiri said Friday, according to ESPN.
“We spoke … I think maybe my mistake was talking about what we expected going forward from him. So, not necessarily talking about a trade but what I expect from him going forward, and I think that’s where the gap was.”
DeRozan has maintained that he was lied to by the organization as he met with team officials in Las Vegas during Summer League play and believed he would not be traded.
“In my job, I always have to assume we’re going forward with the team that I have” Ujiri said.
“If there was a miscommunication there, I do apologize to DeMar and his family and his representation. It’s not what I meant.”
Ujiri says that the opportunity to land Leonard was too good to pass up.
“When you have a chance to get a top-five player, which doesn’t come very often, I think you have to jump on it,” he said.
Ujiri also addressed reports that state Leonard has no interest in playing in Toronto.
“(Leonard) didn’t express a lack of interest to not play in Canada to me,” Ujiri said on Friday. “A lot of these things are everybody has their own opinion about everything. … I haven’t gotten that sense from Kawhi Leonard or his people, and I’m going to give him that chance when we meet face to face.”
“I’ve had conversations with Kawhi, with his agent, with his uncle and everything has gone well,” Ujiri said. “I look forward to meeting with them face to face, and that’s our responsibility … to figure it out and to make them as comfortable as possible. … I’m confident. I think we have a good game plan, and we’ll see how that goes.”
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