Now an eight-year veteran, Aldridge was not too long ago weighing his options with the Portland Trail Blazers, his future with the team not a guarantee. Playing out of position on a team that ended the season on a horrific losing streak can do that to any player.
None of that matters now, as Aldridge has carried the Trail Blazers on his back to a 3-1 advantage over the Houston Rockets.
Game 1 in Houston—46 points, 18 rebounds and a pair of assists and blocks. Win.
Game 2 in Houston—43 points, eight rebounds, an assist and three blocks. Win.
Game 3 in Portland—23 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and blocks. Loss.
Game 4 in Portland—29 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and four blocks. Win.
No player has been more important to his team this postseason. Not Dwight Howard, whose titanic efforts beneath the rim have been overshadowed by Aldridge's efforts. Not Steph Curry for Golden State.
One could make the case for LeBron James, who through three games has averaged 29.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and five assists. But can we really act like that's an achievement against the hapless Charlotte Bobcats?
Aldridge's performance transcends individual feats, although the historic numbers sure don't hurt. As ESPN Stats & Info notes, he's in prestigious company thanks to his first two performances:
The only players to score more points in the 1st 2 games of the postseason than LaMarcus Aldridge are Michael Jordan and Jerry West.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 25, 2014
After his first points on Sunday night, he managed to enter the team's record books, per the franchise's PR department:
LaMarcus Aldridge's first basket gives him more points in first 4 playoff games (114) than any Trail Blazer in team history (Roy, 113).— Trail Blazers PR (@TrailBlazersPR) April 28, 2014
Before the game? He had shot better than the entire Houston squad from mid-range:
LaMarcus Aldridge has scored 32 pts on mid-range shots in this series. The entire Rockets team has scored 16 pts on mid-range shots.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 25, 2014
But back to his importance to the Trail Blazers.
Again, plenty of teams lean on superstars for most of their production. But none can tout such dramatic differentials as the one on display in Portland on Sunday night:
In the 44 minutes LaMarcus Aldridge played, Trail Blazers outscored Rockets by 14. Rockets outscored Blazers by 11 in 9 minutes he sat— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 28, 2014
It's not like any of this was easy to see coming. Sure, Aldridge was coming off a career year going into the series, but this sort of production at a consistent pace has placed the Texas product firmly in the upper echelon of the league's best.
Everybody had made so much chaos over how they were going to guard me. I went into the game trying to feel it out. Ended up finding my rhythm. Coach did a great job of moving me around early. They were trying to double me a little bit early, so I thought coach putting me around the floor was great. … I made tough shots. … I don’t think too much was easy tonight.
It sure looked easy, as it has each night. No adjustments have worked. That is sure to be the case for the rest of the postseason. The next round of the playoffs would perhaps be a date with San Antonio, a team with no real proper defender who can chase Aldridge around and limit him. The same goes for Dallas, a team he routinely torched in the regular season.
As it stands now, Aldridge's heroics on a nightly basis are beginning to become the stuff of legends. He's surpassing some of the most notable names in league history with no clear end in sight. We might just be in the infancy stages of one of the greatest postseason runs in NBA history.