Blazers F Aldridge gets comfortable with his role

By Anne M. Peterson

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Feb. 4 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2011, file photo, Portland Trail Blazers' LaMarcus Aldridge poses for a photo during NBA basketball media day, in Portland, Ore. Let there be no doubt: Aldridge wants to be an All-Star. He feels he's played good enough to deserve it.

Rick Bowmer, File, Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. — LaMarcus Aldridge is direct: He really wants to be an All-Star and he feels he's played well enough to deserve it.

But in the same breath, the Trail Blazers' forward says what's ultimately more important is his team's success as a whole.

Aldridge's conflict — striking the delicate balance between humility and bravado — shows how he's matured since he arrived in Portland nearly six years ago. He's gone from the soft-spoken rookie from Texas playing in Brandon Roy's shadow to the confident and consistent leader of the Blazers.

"I want to win," Aldridge said. "I feel like if you get too enticed into that individual stuff, it can take a toll on you. You have to be focusing on your team, and on winning. You need to keep your focus on the big picture."

But making the All-Star team?

"It would be nice," he said. "Of course I would like to be an All-Star. Who wouldn't?"

Aldridge is averaging 22.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game, putting him among the top players in the NBA. He is a candidate for the U.S. team that will play in the London Olympics this summer.

The All-Star starters, decided by fan voting, were announced on Thursday. The squads include Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant and the like — the NBA's superstars.

The league's coaches determine the reserves, which will be announced next Thursday.

Aldridge has some hurdles. He comes from a small-market team and the Blazers are having an inconsistent season, struggling late in several games. His competition includes the formidable Kevin Love and perennial favorite Dirk Nowitzki.

But he has his supporters. Denver coach George Karl is a vocal fan of the Blazers' 6-foot-11 star, and Cleveland Cavaliers coach Byron Scott heaps on the praise.

"The thing that impresses me is how hard he plays," Scott said before a game against the Blazers this season. "He's so long and athletic. He can do it on the post, and he can do it on the perimeter. He runs that floor as well as any big man in this league, and he's a very unselfish, young, talented basketball player."

Aldridge's breakout came last season when Roy — himself a three-time All-Star — was hobbled by recurring knee injuries. The Blazers began to run plays through, and to, Aldridge, who put up big numbers.

After Roy was sidelined on Dec. 15, Aldridge went on a tear leading up to the All-Star break, averaging 26.3 points and 9.7 rebounds. That included eight games with at least 30 points.

Aldridge said he felt snubbed when the reserves were announced last season and his name wasn't on the list.

"I felt like my resume was perfect," he said.

Roy and Aldridge were part of the same class in 2006, brought to Portland via draft-day trades. Roy, already a star in the Pacific Northwest at Washington, was the sixth overall pick by Minnesota, while Aldridge, who played at Texas, was the second overall pick by the Chicago Bulls.

From the start, the Blazers were Roy's team. He excelled in his first year and was the league's Rookie of the Year. As likable as he was talented, Roy was a dream for Portland, which was trying to escape the "Jail Blazers" era that marked the early 2000s.

Aldridge was relegated to a supporting role, something he readily admits, even referring to himself as Robin to Roy's Batman.

It was clear to everyone who watched last season that Aldridge blossomed in Roy's absence. No disrespect to Roy, but Aldridge said he made a conscious choice to take over.

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