Though we know the San Antonio Spurs franchise is currently at odds with superstar forward Kawhi Leonard, things were very different just a season ago.
In 2016-17, Leonard performed like the perennial MVP candidate he blossomed into and his future in San Antonio looked as bright as ever. Instead, it was veteran big man LaMarcus Aldridge who had some tension with the Spurs and their front office. Aldridge was in his second season with the club after having come over from Portland the season before. Things reportedly got so bad between the sides, that at one point the six-time All-Star called former teammate Damian Lillard about a possible return to the Blazers before ultimately inking an extension with the Spurs months later. Following from Bleacher Report’s Ken Berger:
Last season, a deep rift developed between the team and All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, to the point where Aldridge called former teammate Damian Lillard and asked him to approach general manager Neil Olshey about bringing Aldridge back to Portland, a person familiar with the conversation told B/R.
Though things were rocky between LaMarcus Aldridge and the Spurs in the past, it appears this season those issues were put behind them as more attention was focused towards the Kawhi Leonard saga. In fact, Aldridge quietly had his best season since 2014-15 and was rewarded with an All-Star nod.
With Aldridge and the Spurs having moved past their differences, a lot of the credit unsurprisingly should go to world-class head coach Gregg Popovich:
“You can never say done because everybody thought that the Aldridge thing was over and that there was no chance to salvage that,” one of the people said. “Pop went in and smoothed it over. You can’t underestimate the power of the Pop in these situations.”
Though Popovich was able to sway Aldridge into being content in San Antonio, he will need even more of that magic to ensure he retains his franchise centerpiece Kawhi Leonard this summer.