Quick Bit: LaMarcus Aldridge reflects on Damian Lillard’s legacy in Portland and why the Bucks are an immediate championship threat.
The biggest domino of the offseason fell last week when Damian Lillard was traded to the Bucks, ending his 11-year tenure in Portland.
While the Heat long-loomed as the likeliest destination for Lillard, the Bucks swooped in for the seven-time All-Star as part of a three-team deal with the Phoenix Suns to surprise everyone.
That included Lillard’s former teammate LaMarcus Aldridge, who believes the move ultimately works out best for everyone.
“I feel like the whole world thought it was going to be Miami,” Aldridge told The Sporting News.
“I thought it would be Miami and then it just came out of nowhere but happy for him, man. He was very loyal to that organization, gave everything he could, he tried to win.
“I feel like as you get older, your focus becomes more about winning. I feel like it’s understandable that it was time to go and I feel like [Portland] did right by him and gave him a good team with a good player.”
Damian Lillard’s legacy is cemented in Portland
Aldridge, who played alongside Lillard in Portland for three seasons before making the decision to leave in free agency for the Spurs, faced a similar crossroads after spending the first nine seasons of his career with the Blazers.
Despite earning four All-Star selections, becoming the franchise’s all-time leader in rebounds and third all-time leading scorer, the Blazers only advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs once during Aldridge’s time in Portland.
With Lillard in a similar position, Aldridge says the decision to leave would have been “very hard” after creating a legacy in the Pacific Northwest.
“His MO is loyalty and everyone who knows him and is a fan of him believes that and knows it, so to even get to the point where he wanted to leave, I’m sure that was hard. But as I said, as you get older, you want to win. And that’s why he did it.
“When I left, it wasn’t easy. And he stayed longer than I did. So obviously, it’s just about trying to maximize his window.”
Lillard leaves Portland with his name all over the record books. He has the most points (19,376) and 3-pointers (2,387) in franchise history, the most points in a single game (71 points) and many more.
After 11 seasons, Aldridge says Lillard will go down as the greatest player in Trail Blazers history.
“I mean, he’s the best player. They already got his jersey going up in the rafters next week,” Aldridge said.
“Best player to come through the franchise. All-time leading scorer and most points in the game, name it. So definitely going to be retired. He’s loved and he’s going to be loved even more later on.”
Why Damian Lillard makes the Bucks instant contenders
Lillard now finds himself vaulted into immediate championship contention alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, with the Bucks favored to come out of the Eastern Conference.
During Lillard’s tenure in Portland, Aldridge was his only All-Star teammate.
Now, with Antetokounmpo, he has not only a championship-caliber running mate but one that perfectly complements his skillset. The duo instantly becomes the best 1-2 punch in the league.
“I feel like those two guys together, anything is possible. I feel like [it’s a] great move for him. I’m so happy for him,” Aldridge added.
“It’s kind of what he needed. A guy that could shoot from anywhere, one guy inside, one guy outside and when teams double Giannis, you’re going to leave Dame open?
“He’s clutch, so he’s going to create some tough situations for the defense. I feel like with them two together, it’s going to be scary.”
The oddsmakers have the Bucks as the outright favorite to win the 2023-24 championship and while most big trades can take time to settle in, Aldridge is confident the Bucks can “instantly” contend for the Larry O’Brien trophy.
“I mean, Giannis has already done it, he’s already won one,” he said. “So when you add someone of the Dame’s caliber to his roster, then it’s definitely a possibility.”
Originally found on Sporting News Read More