How will the fans of Portland welcome back one of the franchise's greatest all-time players on Wednesday as LaMarcus Aldridge's San Antonio Spurs come to town? The Blazers are 7.5-point underdogs on BetOnline's NBA odds with a total of 198.5.
Spurs' Winning Lured Aldridge
I'd call Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler the best player in Portland history but LaMarcus Aldridge is probably No. 2 at least as of right now. Aldridge was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2006 draft out of Texas by the Bulls by but immediately traded to Portland for No. 4 pick Tyrus Thomas (huge mistake for Chicago) and a throw-in player. Aldridge spent his first nine seasons in the Pacific Northwest but the Trail Blazers never were true championship contenders and probably weren't going to be in the near future.
So after some serious deliberation, Aldridge this summer decided to sign with San Antonio for four years and $84 million over Portland (which could offer an extra year and about $30 million more) and a strong pitch from Phoenix. I think the fans will welcome him warmly on Wednesday. In 648 regular-season games with the Blazers, Aldridge was a four-time All-Star who averaged 19.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.02 blocks in 35.5 minutes. He left Portland as the Trail Blazers' all-time leader in rebounds (5,434), second in points (12,562) and fourth in games played (648) and blocked shots (658). His 234 double-doubles also rank first all-time in team history.
The chance to win a ring and return to Texas were too much to turn down. But does Aldridge regret it? He's struggling a bit to fit in right now, averaging 15.1 points and 9.1 rebounds. Not bad numbers but now what he's used to, at least in points. Aldridge isn't the clear No. 1 guy any longer. The Spurs have numerous weapons.
San Antonio (5-2) enters this on two-game winning streak and clobbered the Kings in Sacramento on Monday 106-88. Kawhi Leonard, who is San Antonio's best player (not Aldridge or future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan), led the way with 20 points. That deep Spurs bench had 24 fourth-quarter points. Duncan and Tony Parker didn't even play in the fourth.
Blazers Have Good Backcourt At Least
Portland lost five of its top six players off last year's team, keeping only point guard Damian Lillard. But the Blazers, projected by many to be one of the West's worst teams, are a solid 4-4. They do enter on a two-game skid, blowing fourth-quarter leads in both.
On Monday, Portland lost 108-104 at Denver, another rebuilding team. Lillard had 30 points and seven assists. C.J. McCollum, an early favorite for the NBA's Most Improved Player Award, was 6-for-15 for 16 points. During a 24-hour stretch, the Pistons (who trailed Portland by 18 on Sunday before rallying) and Nuggets combined to shot 50.3 percent from the field, register 42 second-chance points, score 106 points in the paint and outrebound the Blazers 93-79. Defense is going to be a major problem all year.
Lillard and McCollum are averaging 48.7 points a game this season, the second-highest total behind only Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Lillard has scored at least 20 points in all eight games to start the year. Only Drexler started a season with a longer such streak when scored 20 or more points in the first 12 games of the 1988-89 season. But the Blazers don't have much behind their backcourt duo.
The Blazers are 4-4 ATS on NBA picks and 5-3 O/U.
The Blazers beat the Spurs three of four times and haven't lost a season series to the Spurs since 2011-12. Lillard scored a career-high 43 points -- 16 after regulation -- against the Spurs on 16-for-29 shooting in a 129-119 triple-overtime win in San Antonio on Dec. 19, 2014. Lillard has scored at least 20 points in 10 of his 11 career games against the Spurs. Portland is 11-2 at home against San Antonio dating back to the start of the 2008-09 season.
NBA Picks: Give the points at BetOnline and definitely go 'over' in what should be a very high-scoring game. The Blazers have covered only two of their past 12 against teams with a winning record. The Spurs are 6-2 ATS in their past eight road games. The 'over' is 4-0 in the past four meetings. The favorite is 4-1 ATS in the past five.