PORTLAND — LaMarcus Aldridge calmly sat in front of his newly-remodeled locker. He placed his paddle brush inside a monogram Louis Vuitton toiletry bag and unlatched one gold stud from his ear, then the other.
Before this All-Star would hit the Rose Garden floor on Friday night to take on Golden State, he was asked for his opinion about the recent comments made by Warriors power forward David Lee.
In part, Lee told CBSsports.com: “If you look at my numbers around All-Star (time) last year and all the stuff we were doing. LaMarcus Aldridge makes the All-Star team, and I don’t. I think if Portland and Golden State’s records are reversed, it’s probably the opposite way.”
Lee made sure to express that he wasn’t “talking bad about (Aldridge) at all,” even so his statement weighed his slight against Aldridge’s greatest individual achievement of the 2011-2012 season.
But with Lee down the hallway inside the visitor’s locker room, Aldridge relaxed in his. He considered Lee’s quotes and showed as much outward concern as a millionaire would at the news of rising gas prices.
“Whatever he has to do to motivate himself. I’m not offended by that,” Aldridge shrugged.
Then, the volume of Aldridge’s monotone livened and his tune turned sarcastic.
“One of the key quotes he said is that I have more wins. That’s a big part of the NBA I thought, was making your team, ya know, win games. I can’t take offense to it because I think he might have been trying to throw a punch but he just made me look better because he said my team had more wins than his so that must mean that I’m leading my team in the right direction.”
On Friday, Aldridge was not on the floor as the Blazers attempted a fourth-quarter comeback. Lee was, and he walked off the court with a quick smile after his team’s 101-97 win.
Lee scored 24 points in 35 minutes. Aldridge only played the equivalent of one basketball half, plus a couple minutes for good measure (26:39).
Still, he worked his patented catch-and-shoot finishes and even flashed some litheness for a 6-foot-11 man during a fast break dunk and finished with 18 points on 7 of 11 shooting.
Aldridge had 16 by halftime, which was his previous high total through the four preseason games.
“I think everybody was concerned about him after three games,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said, “now I think everybody’s alright with him.”
In other words, he’s still LaMarcus Aldridge, Western Conference All-Star.
Lee and Aldridge play the same position and if you consider last season’s statistics, they also produce at a similar clip.
Side by side, their numbers reveal two offensive-minded power forwards with an accurate touch from everything inside their 21-foot range.
As players, they’re Mary-Kate and Ashley. But their personalities are more like Tommy Lee and Tommy Lee Jones.
Lee is demonstrative. He often lets an official know about his displeasure with foul calls. He barks commands while anchoring the back line of the defense.
Lee stands and applauds teammates as he did when Richard Jefferson finished a fast break and capped the Warriors’ 33-point third quarter.
Aldridge, on the other hand, is smooth. He plays with a poker face and even as the fans hyperventilated and the “L-Train” sound effect bellowed through the arena, Aldridge did not show emotion after his runaway dunk for his first field goal at the 6:17 mark of the first quarter.
“I was just trying to get my steps together and just try to finish,” Aldridge said. “I was kinda nervous because I haven’t dunked in a long time. So that felt good to actually look athletic for a change.”