Commentary: Aldridge is robbed once again

Commentary: Matt Calkins

By Matt Calkins, Columbian Sports Reporter

Published:

 

The love rained down like a LaMarcus Aldridge 20-footer.

“Congrats bala!” typed Nicolas Batum.

“Congrats train!” tweeted Wesley Matthews, citing Aldridge’s moniker.

“Congrats to (Aldridge) for being named All NBA 3rd team!” added Marcus Camby, whose top-of-the-key lobs throughout the season should get his name on the credits for his teammate’s honor.

Yes, LaMarcus Aldridge, who was called the “the biggest All-Star snub in history,” by LeBron James earlier this season, who finished a controversial second to Kevin Love in the league’s Most Improved balloting earlier this month, was announced as a member of the All-NBA Third Team on Thursday. And while Aldridge is normally reticent on all matters involving individual accolades, his online celebration was about as loud as the locomotive he’s nicknamed after.

“Just want to thank God and my family and teammates!,” Aldridge said on Twitter. “It’s a blessing!”

It’s not hard to see how earning a year-long honor would prompt Aldridge to give the exclamation-point key a contusion or two. In a 450-man league, only 15 are picked for any of the three All-NBA teams, and this is the first time the 25-year-old’s name was etched in.

But hidden behind the adulation and boisterous punctuation is a simple truth: Aldridge was robbed again.

Sure, this year’s first team has an air-tight case: Derrick Rose and Kobe Bryant as the guards, Kevin Durant and LeBron James as the forwards, and Dwight Howard as the center. That’s about as open-and-shut as picking the top five Great Lakes. But there are definitely grounds to take the second team to the Court of Appeals.

Chosen for that unit were Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook at guard, Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol at forward, and Amare Stoudemire in the middle. It’s a fine list, no doubt — but might that final selection be more appropriate for the red carpet than the basketball floor?

There’s no denying Stoudemire’s offensive ability and now stratospheric profile. In his first season in New York, he removed the basketball worms from the Big Apple this year by single-handedly making the Knicks playoff contenders via averages of 25.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. But look at the team’s final record: 42-40. And that includes a six-game skid after the addition of Carmelo Anthony.

Neither Stoudemire nor Aldridge were true centers this year, but both played in the middle enough to be considered for that position on a year-end team. The difference is, Aldridge led the Blazers to a 48-34 record, which included a 30-22 mark against the Western Conference (the Knicks were just 14-16 vs. the West). He also played his best basketball immediately after three-time All-Star teammate Brandon Roy announced he’d be sitting out indefinitely — going on to win two Western Conference Player of the Week honors and Player of the Month for February.

True, Aldridge’s average of 21.8 points was lower than Stoudemire’s, and his 8.8 rebounds only slightly higher — but the Knicks play at one of the most caffeinated paces in the NBA while the Blazers are a walking Unisom ad. Give Stoudemire all those extra opportunities, and Aldridge never had a chance.

But the real reason you can’t defend Amare over LaMarcus . . . is because Amare can’t defend.

The Knicks gave up the second most points per game in the NBA this year and allowed the fifth-highest opponent’s shooting percentage. No, that doesn’t fall on one guy, but anybody who’s seen Stoudemire try to play defense know he doubles as a matador. Meanwhile, Synergy Sports rated Aldridge as the fourth-best defender in the pick-and-roll among players who have defended at least 200 plays, and ESPN reported that the Blazers were 5.5 points better per 100 possessions defensively with Aldridge on the court.

But hey, Portland trying to compete with New York for notoriety is like Arbor Day taking on Christmas.

Ties, narrow losses — even borderline blowouts will always go to the big city.

So making the third team may have Aldridge tweeting exclamation marks, but he had the better year than Stoudemire. Period.

Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 ormatt.calkins@columbian.com