LOS ANGELES – Before the San Antonio Spurs faced the Lakers in Los Angeles Thursday night, head coach Gregg Popovich dropped a bombshell to reporters when he said LaMarcus Aldridge asked to be traded during the past offseason.
"Whoa, nobody’s ever said that to me before. It’s my 20 whatever year and nobody’s ever said that like, 'I’m not enjoying this. I’m not confident. I’m not sure you want me here. I want to be traded,'" Popovich said.
LaMarcus Aldridge's offseason trade request was a first for Pop. pic.twitter.com/Y4gxXMUE5K— ESPN (@espn) January 12, 2018
Reports surfaced Popovich and Aldridge had a heart-to-heart meeting shortly after LaMarcus struggled in the 2017 playoffs with Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard both out due to injuries.
Parker was sidelined in the Western Conference semifinals due to a ruptured left quadriceps and Leonard was knocked out in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals with an ankle injury.
However, Thursday night’s pregame conversation is the first time Popovich publicly shared that Aldridge wanted out from wearing the Spurs uniform before he had the player option to get out of his own contract after this season.
"I was candid with him,” five-time NBA champion coach Popovich said. "I’d be happy to trade you. You get me a talent like Kevin Durant, and I’ll drive you to the airport. I’ll pack your bags. And I will drive you there, get you on the plane, and get you seated."
Pop continued his revelation: "But short of that, I’m your best buddy because you are here for another year, and you ain’t going nowhere. Because we’re not gonna get for you talent-wise what we would want. So, let’s figure this thing out, and we did."
Just days before the start of the 2017-18 NBA regular season and months after his heart-to-heart with Popovich, Aldridge agreed to sign a three-year, $72 million extension with the Spurs.
At the season's halfway point, Aldridge is leading the team in scoring with 22.6 points per game and prior to Thursday night’s game against the Lakers, he has achieved 17 double-doubles this season.
Pop would add with another admission: "As discussions went on, it became apparent to me that it really was me. He’s (Aldridge) been playing in the league for nine years (and) I’m not going to turn him into some other player."
Gregg Popovich says LaMarcus Aldridge’s improvement with SA is in part because Popovich “stopped overcoaching him.” When I asked Pop what brought him to the decision to change, he revealed LMA asked for a trade this summer. Said it was the first time in 20 years a player did that— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) January 12, 2018
Popovich closed the topic with a self-examination.
"That was just silly on my part. Total overcoaching. So, we took care of it, and he’s been fantastic."