Thursday, March 8, 2012

LaMarcus Aldridge must make Trail Blazers his team

The Portland Trail Blazers have been hovering around .500 for almost a month now. Despite all the talent this team possesses they have struggled in a major way this season, especially on the road. LaMarcus Aldridge has played well but for this team to have a shot at the playoffs he has got to raise his game.

Aldridge went to his first All-Star game this year despite putting up virtually the same numbers he put up last year. Part of the reason may be because the condensed schedule has made it harder for some players to improve on their statistics from last season.

Many players are playing fewer minutes which has also been the case with Aldridge. His minutes are down by nearly four minutes-per-game. He also has to share the ball with Gerald Wallace who was brought in at the trade deadline last year and Jamal Crawford who signed with the team during the offseason.

While it has to be a relief to Aldridge that Portland was able to acquire those two players to ease the loss of his buddy Brandon Roy, neither has filled the leadership void that Roy left when he retired from the team.

As a matter of fact, Aldridge is the only current starter who has more than three years tenure as a starter with the team.

Raymond Felton was brought in via a trade during the offseason, Wesley Matthews is only in his second year with the team and Nicholas Batum is in his fourth year with the team but hasn’t been a consistent starter. He has only started 11 of the 36 games he has played in this season.

Although Aldridge isn’t the most outspoken player he is the team’s most talented player and needs to take a bigger role in leading this team. Wallace, Crawford, Matthews, Batum and Felton are good players but none of them has the ceiling that Aldridge possesses.

Aldridge has the ability to play in the post and shoot all the way out to three-point range. Coach Nate McMillan needs to make sure Aldridge gets the ball more and push him to assert his self more on the court.

Aldridge also has room to grow on the defensive end. There is no reason he shouldn’t be able to average at least ten boards per game. Kevin Love shoots as well and as much as Aldridge does away from the basket but still manages to bring down over 13 rebounds per game.

Aldridge is averaging under a block per game which is totally unacceptable, especially when you consider how tough of a time Portland has had keeping some of their other post players in the lineup. Instead of stepping up his game though Aldridge is blocking shots at half the rate he blocked shots last season.

So Aldridge needs to get it in gear if this team wants to make the playoffs. The Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz are all ahead of the Blazers for the eighth playoff spot and there are only 27 games left in the season.

The good news is that Portland is only a game and a half behind eighth-placed Minnesota. 

If Aldridge can raise his game and get his teammates in gear then the Blazers could make their fourth straight appearance in the playoffs under Coach McMillan. If not then Aldridge may be saying goodbye to his coach as well as a couple of his teammates once the regular season ends.

Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and is also an NBA Blogger for The Sport Mentalist 2. He can be contacted at Follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist and add him on Facebook Roosevelt Hall Thesportmentalist.

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