When LaMarcus Aldridge was named to the Western Conference All-Star team earlier this month, Trail Blazers fans were overcome with a feeling of gratitude mixed with accomplishment. For five-and-a-half years, Rip City has watched LaMarcus grow and elevate his game to an All-Star level. Earning the official honor from NBA coaches is a major accomplishment and something he should be (and most likely is) extremely proud of.
While earning the respect of NBA coaches is a major accomplishment, the greater honor is earning the respect of recognized All-Stars around the league. Through his elevated post moves, work ethic, “team first” mentality and his love for the game, LaMarcus has done just that. Of course, most all players have respect for everyone else in the league knowing all of the work they put in just to reach the NBA level. That’s a given. Earning the respect and praise of some of the smartest, most well known players in the league is not. LaMarcus Aldridge has reached that level.
While in Orlando, Huy Tran and I asked some of LaMarcus’ fellow All-Stars (and one Rising Star and fellow University of Texas alumni) what they think about him and his game. Here’s what they had to say. (Note: The biggest compliment comes from Darren Collison via Roy Hibbert. Yes, you read that correctly.)
Tristan Thompson, rookie on the Cleveland Cavaliers, fellow Texas alumni: “LaMarcus did a lot for the [Texas basketball] program. I watched a lot of film of him while I was at Texas. He’s a great player for Portland, and I definitely watch a lot of film on him because he runs the floor like I do. I’m going to continue to work on my game, and if I can be at least half as good as he is, that’s a pretty good career.”
Roy Hibbert, first-time All-Star, Indiana Pacers: “I graduated high school the same year as LaMarcus, and he was a great player then and he’s a great player now. His postgame is great. My teammate Darren Collision plays with the Trail Blazers all the time [on NBA 2k12] and basically just feeds it to LaMarcus the whole time. He’s a great player. I love playing against the best in the world, and he’s one of them. Whenever I play against him, I love to go at it, and if I don’t have a good day, I can learn from him.”
Chris Bosh, 7x All-Star, Miami Heat: “I don’t get caught up too much in the rankings, but he is one of the best out there. He’s really starting to turn the corner as a player. I think the next step for him is just pushing his teammates to be better and taking his team to the next level. That’s going to be one of the hardest things he’s ever done, but I know LaMarcus. We’ve know each other since we were 14, 15 years old, and just to see where he’s come from is a spectacular, great thing.”
Steve Nash, 8x All-Star, Phoenix Suns: When asked what advice he has for Aldridge as the leader of the Blazers, Nash replied, “He’s going about it [being the leader of the team] the right way. He comes to play every night, he plays hard, he’s focused, and I think that’s the number one thing. When your teammates believe that you’re focused, believe that you’re motivated and your heart is in the right place, they’ll follow you. They’ll believe in you and then they can follow you. I think he’s doing a really good job. He’s taken his game to another level this year, and his teammates are responding to him. He doesn’t really need my advice – he’s on his way.”
Kevin Durant, 3x All-Star, Oklahoma City Thunder, fellow Texas alumni: “It’s always tough playing against those guys. LaMarcus, I’ve known him for a while now, and he’s somebody I look up to. He works so hard, and he deserves everything he’s getting right now. He’s playing phenomenally, and not just this year, but for the past three or four years he’s been playing All-Star level basketball. It was just a matter of time before he was in the game, and I’m excited for him. He’s a Texas guy as well so I’m always pulling for him, except for when we play them. Every time we go to Portland and every time they come to Oklahoma City it’s a battle, and it’s something you look forward to as a competitor.”
Dirk Nowitzki, 11x All-Star, Dallas Mavericks: “Huge fan… I’m a huge fan of his. He’s really expanded his game from year to year, adding the deeper jump shot, adding more post moves, adding the off the dribble game. I’m a big fan. He’s the franchise player there now, and he’s really taken his game to another level. He’s been fun to watch. I’m happy for him this year because last year I think he deserved it [an All-Star spot], and he didn’t make it. He was one of the guys who got snubbed, so I’m happy to see him here, and I hope he enjoys the weekend.”