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Gregg Popovich: Spurs, LaMarcus Aldridge mutually agree to part ways

Spurs big LaMarcus Aldridge

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JANUARY 22: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs smiles before the game against the Dallas Mavericks on January 22, 2021 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

LaMarcus Aldridge requested a trade from the Spurs in 2017. He had been facing trade rumors throughout the season. Concerns about prominence and playing style emerged.

Instead of trading Aldridge, the Spurs catered their system to him. Aldridge signed a contract extension then had an excellent year.

Now, Aldridge might actually be done with San Antonio.

Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich said the team and Aldridge – who’s in the final year of his contract – have mutually agreed to part ways.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:

Aldridge, 35, has declined significantly since he was a near-perennial All-Star. He has especially lost a step defensively, and his rebounding has slipped. The Spurs recently won five of six not completely coincidentally while Aldridge was out with a hip injury.

But he’s still a talented interior scorer who has developed into a solid 3-point shooter. He could help plenty of teams.

Aldridge has talked about returning to Portland, where he spent his first nine seasons. The Trail Blazers could use another big with Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins and Harry Giles injured.

Aldridge’s $24 million salary will complicate a trade. Teams will have difficulty matching Aldridge’s salary without including players more valuable than him.

With Portland, Rodney Hood ($10,047,450 salary in the final guaranteed season of his contract) would be a logical piece in an Aldridge trade. But a second player who’d make salaries match – Derrick Jones Jr., Robert Covington or Nurkic – is more valuable than Aldridge. So, the Spurs would have to add more. It gets complex in a hurry.

Constructing an Aldridge trade with any team would include similar obstacles.

If kept through the trade deadline, Aldridge would still be owed $8,219,178 the rest of the season.* San Antonio has worked out a buyout with an expensive aging center before, though.

*More than a year ago, the Spurs guaranteed the final $17 million of Aldridge’s $24 million 202-21 salary several months before necessary. The original deadline was last offseason. San Antonio probably would have still guaranteed Aldridge’s contract last offseason rather than waiving him and taking a $7 million cap hit before the season. But considering how quickly the situation has unraveled, it’s worth at least reexamining that decision.

The Spurs (18-14) are winning while giving significant roles to youngsters Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson, Lonnie Walker, Jacob Poeltl, Devin Vassell and Derrick White. Poeltl is already outplaying Aldridge at center. Drew Eubanks and Luka Samanic could get bigger roles with Aldridge gone.

Aldridge isn’t San Antonio’s only veteran on an expiring contract. DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills and Rudy Gay are also approaching inflection points. Will the Spurs keep those players to bolster the team’s present? Or will Aldridge’s impending exit hasten a larger changing of the guard?

San Antonio delayed Aldridge’s departure a few years and experienced significant success as a result. But the situation has now come to a head.