PORTLAND — The destination of free-agent forward LaMarcus Aldridge is still, as of this writing, up in the air. But the evidence continues to mount that the Blazers won’t have him back and that the team entered the NBA’s free-agent season under that assumption.
In an interview with local WTHI-TV in Terra Haute, Ind., Blazers assistant coach Kim Hughes confirmed that the team knew Aldridge wouldn’t be back.
“People don’t realize, we just went young,” Hughes told WTHI when talking about the vision of the team. “We didn’t publicize it, but we lost LaMarcus Aldridge. It hasn’t been declared yet, but I’m sure he won’t come back.”
The comments from Hughes were no doubt a surprise as they were so direct.
But they do fall in line with what a Western Conference executive told The Columbian last week, that Aldridge had already notified Portland he wasn’t coming back.
Blazers president of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey refuted that report as well as others stating that Aldridge’s departure was imminent.
“I can tell you that he has not informed anybody of his intention not to return to the team,” Olshey said. “In no way has he given us any indication that he was not returning to the Trail Blazers.”
It is unclear how much say or knowledge Hughes has of the Blazers personnel decisions, but we do know that he has known Olshey for quite a long time.
The two were assistant coaches together on the Clippers and Hughes even served as interim head coach for part of one season, while Olshey was running the Clippers.
Hughes coached the team’s big men, which included Aldridge.
Aldridge even credited Hughes with helping him with his free-throw shooting this season, which was a career-best mark of 84 percent.
Thursday, Aldridge reportedly met with Miami Heat President Pat Riley. He also agreed to meet with the Los Angeles Lakers for a second time and called off a meeting with the New York Knicks.
The four-time all-star has also met with San Antonio, Phoenix and Dallas.
Also Thursday, the agent for point guard Damian Lillard, Aaron Goodwin, told USA TODAY Sports that his client is planning a visit to Los Angeles to try and convince Aldridge to stay.
When the Blazers traded Nicolas Batum to Charlotte in which the main prize was 2014 lottery pick Noah Vonleh, who plays Aldridge’s position, the questions started to mount about what it meant.
The Blazers reached an agreement with Dallas Mavericks forward Al-Farouq Aminu on the first day of free-agency.
Aldridge isn’t the only Blazers free-agent who has yet to choose a destination.
Wesley Matthews has reportedly drawn interest from Toronto, Sacramento and Dallas.
Robin Lopez is still in the free-agent process and has a meeting scheduled with the New York Knicks later this week per the New York Post.
Joel Freeland, according to a source, has drawn interest five NBA teams.