Off Topic

It’s a story that continues to intrigue the NBA. The relationship between LaMarcus Aldridge and the Spurs almost ended this past summer when the five-time All-Star requested a trade.

Gregg Popovich went into detail about the trade request before the Oct. 30 contest against the Boston Celtics, and then again in Los Angles earlier this month.

“He said, ‘I want to be traded,’“ Popovich told reporters. “And I said, ‘Whoa, nobody has ever said that to me before.’ He said, ‘I’m not enjoying this. I’m not confident. I’m not sure you want me here. I want to be traded.’“

Aldridge and Popovich met to discuss their differences and solve any complications, which helped Aldridge return, and likely remain, in San Antonio for years to come.

“Our communication has been 100 times better this year,” said Aldridge. “I think he understands me more and I understand him more.”

In this week’s Off Topic, Aldridge revisits the meeting with Popovich, giving his side to what occurred, what the two spoke about, and how he was able to regain his confidence on the court.

It’s a story that hasn’t died. In Boston, Popovich went into detail about the lunch that the two of you had to discuss your trade request. How relieving was that talk?

I wouldn’t say it was relieving right away because it was a process. I think I was relieved with how welcoming he was to listen to what I had to say and how he took it in and processed it and didn’t get defensive and didn’t tune me out. I could tell he was concerned and really wanted to hear what I had to say. He wanted to take it in and digest it. So, I was very happy with the way he welcomed the conversation. He didn’t get defensive. I felt like that helped me talk more freely.

Did it take multiple lunches to get your point across?

No. The first one, I didn’t want to sugarcoat it or anything. I wasn’t rude or anything, but the first one had to be the one where I laid it all out. I didn’t speak rudely or anything. I’m a very respectful person, and I feel like Pop knows that and that’s why the talks went so well. He was very understanding, and he took it in. After that, we just had continuing dialogue back and forth.

When did these lunches take place?

Now, it feels like forever (laughs). I can’t remember honestly. I wish I could tell you. But it was before the draft. That’s all I can say. It was before the draft, and it was here in San Antonio. At the time, it worked out for us both. We had a very constructive talk, and he told me some things that he wanted to say, and I said what I wanted to say.

Was that the first time you met with a coach under those conditions?

With him, yes. I’ve had other coaches where we would talk back and forth. I talked with Nate (McMillan) a lot because Nate wanted to talk. Nate would call me in the office all the time and kind of bounce things off of me. When Kaleb (Canales) was the (interim coach of the Trail Blazers) we stayed talking because that’s my guy. Terry (Stotts) tried to talk to me at least once a month or twice a month to see how I felt about things. So, I really haven’t had that talk with Pop because things work differently here. That was my first talk with him like that.

Were you nervous?

No, because I don’t tiptoe around things. Once I got to that point where I wanted to talk to him, it wasn’t anything to be nervous about. If I was confident in what I was saying and very respectful the way I brought it to him, then it should be an issue, and it wasn’t.

How long did you feel like you needed to have this talk because things weren’t working out?

I don’t know. I really can’t say. It was just a process of me trying to figure out how to be better here and looking at myself and trying to figure out ways where I can be helpful in winning here. That’s what I felt like had to happen, us having a great dialogue back and forth and discuss how we felt about things. It was good.

Did a part of you feel like your time in San Antonio was over?

No. I didn’t know what was going to happen. It’s different here. I just know that the starting point was me having a dialogue with him and seeing how that goes. I was open to see how things go after that.

When did you reach the point where you wanted to commit long-term here?

I think after the talk. Each time I talked with him, it got better. We had great dialogue about how I was being used and what I like to do. Ime (Udoka) came down (to Dallas) earlier, and kind of picked my brain. JB (James Borrego) pulled me to the side, and he was asking (for input). I felt like it was a team effort as far as them trying to see the things I like and trying to figure out how to make me feel more comfortable. So, I think after the talk, I feel like everyone really heard me. I felt like the whole staff was helping. I felt like things were going to get better and in training camp, we tweaked some things.

Udoka said one of the things you did was work on your 3-point shot last offseason. How many did you shoot a day?

We did work on that a lot. I probably started that earlier. But I don’t know. I just did drills, and it was hard to count. I would do spots where I would make 20, 10 to 15. Then I would do drifts from the top of the key where I had to make 10. Drifts from the corner to the top. Drifts from the corner up to the wing. So, we just did a lot of variations when if I’m in the game and it comes to me in different ways, I would get it. It’s hard to guess because some days you’re hot and get through the drill quicker and some days you have to find your rhythm and end up taking 30 to 40 shots. So, I can’t really say, but I know we worked on a variation of ways how I would (shoot 3-pointers).

Did you watch any film or study anyone else?

No. I’m s shooter, that’s what I do. I’m not trying to be arrogant. Just getting my reps up and getting back comfortable. My last year in Portland I shot the most 3-pointers I had in my career because I was comfortable. When I got here, I kind of went backward. So, I think the last summer was just about getting more comfortable with it and learning how to get those shots here in this system.

There was a comment you made at the beginning of your time with the Spurs. It was in Phoenix, and you said it was Kawhi Leonard’s team. Do you feel like this your team now, too?

To go where we have want to go, we both have to play well. We both have to do it at the same time on the court together. So, I feel like we want to win it all and for us to get there he has to be himself, and I have to be myself. … I don’t want to say, “Oh, this is his team or mine.” I feel like for us to go where we want to go, we have to have everyone playing great. Everyone has to be themselves out there.

Everyone I spoke to about your play, they mention one thing. They say you’re smiling again. What do you say when you hear that?

Man, I haven’t even heard it. I’m having fun, you know? I’m involved, and I feel like I’m playing my game. I’m more free. I’m not overthinking about this or that. Of course, I take a tough shot now and then but Pop knows I’m not going to go crazy with those. A tough shot is just trying to find my rhythm, and I feel like he’s more understanding of that this year. Having that freedom of being myself has made it better out there (on the court).

Is this is the happiest you’ve been in your career?

Since I got here, for sure. This is the most comfortable I’ve been. I’m hoping to keep being the player I am.

Did you and Popovich toast with a glass of wine after the talks?

(Laughs) Nah. I don’t drink like that.

Twitter: @JabariJYoung

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