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.”