Double Snub for Aldridge?Posted on by Robert Seitzinger (rseitzinger)
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"LaMarcus Aldridge is in beast mode." This phrase has been uttered on Portland's 95.5 The Game with alacrity in the last week. While his fuller facial hair and greater muscle mass (he added about 20 pounds last off-season) than seasons past could be what the sports radio personalities are referring to, anyone who has been to a Portland Trail Blazers game this season can tell you it's less to do with his physical changes and more to do with the aura surrounding Aldridge. He has played like an all-star, been carrying the Blazers like an all-star and just plain carrying himself as an all-star. Yet he is not an all-star this year.
Brandon Roy, who is a designated captain along with Aldridge, has been considered the franchise leader for three seasons since earning Rookie of the Year honors in his first NBA season. Aldridge had comfortably played the second fiddle in Roy's band, as support players have come and gone during the four years they've been in Blazers uniforms together, with injuries and trades causing frequent roster jostling around the two. However, last season saw Roy's durability take quite a dip, and he's missed a significant number of games this season and left Aldridge to pick up the slack as active captain.
Aldridge has answered the call admirably, stepping up his game to average more than 20 points and 8 rebounds for the first time in his career. Fans are responsible for voting the starters for all-star squads, and thus the big names (including Yao Ming, who played fewer than 10 games, all unremarkable) made the cut. Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony seemed obvious fan elections to start as forwards, and this left a very dense crowd of legitimate all-star forwards for coaches to select as reserves in the Western Conference. Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Lamar Odom, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin were his primary competition, and four of those were named. Of them, Nowitski missed a stretch of games but has otherwise played up to his all-star pedigree.
Here is where snub number one comes: Tim Duncan was selected, despite having weaker numbers than Aldridge in points, boards, shooting percentage and minutes played. Granted, he is one of the best power forwards in the league's history, but being grandfathered into the all-star squad is a weak excuse for his inclusion ahead of Aldridge. Griffin is a rookie who puts up numbers to rival Aldridge's, and his selection was likely because of how exciting a player he has been this year. Regardless, he and the Los Angeles Clippers carry a losing record, and Aldridge has been the key reason for Portland's plus-.500 record this season and why they may still make the playoffs in spite of a fresh wave of injuries.
Snub number two came when NBA Commissioner David Stern dismissed the injured Yao from the Western Conference team and named Kevin Love in his stead. This hurt much worse than Aldridge not making the squad outright, because while Love's scoring and rebound figures are greater, it's due to him having no one else in Minnesota to help carry the low-post load (and because his team generates a lot more offensive rebound opportunities and second-chance points in the paint). As with the Clippers, the Timberwolves aren't even sniffing a playoff spot, and unlike Aldridge, Love has assumed the foreman role of his team's offense since he arrived in Minnesota. Aldridge has had a few months of being the primary offensive piece in an offense coach Nate McMillan previously geared around speedy guards.
Consider that, in the four games since the reserves were announced, Aldridge has averaged 28.3 points (including a career-high outing of 42 against Chicago the day Love was named to the team), 9.5 rebounds and 2 blocks during 39.8 minutes. Those are clearly all-star figures. Aldridge had been playing at this level for much of the season, and it is a shame that Griffin was chosen over him (because he's flashy and the all-star game will be played in Los Angeles), that Love was chosen over him (because Commissioner Stern has a man-crush on him) and that Duncan was chosen over him (because the coaches still see the player he once was).
All this spitting and pouting on my part won't change the lineup. Case in point, the snubs seem to have fueled Aldridge to play all the harder, which can only mean good things for the Blazers. In a league with a looming lockout and business-model issues up the wazoo, this year's flawed all-star voting and coaches' selection method is the last egg the NBA wants on its face. Perhaps negotiations this off-season will include revamping of how players are honored for their efforts. For now, there's still a strong chance Aldridge will be named to an all-NBA team at the end of the season, which is a consolation prize, but hell, it'd be better than a triple snub.
Who deserved to replace Yao Ming on the 2011 Western Conference All-Stars?
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