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Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012

Aldridge begins anew with rebuilding Trail Blazers

AP

PORTLAND, Oregon — LaMarcus Aldridge is getting a fresh start with his old team.

News photo
Ready to shine: Portland power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, now beginning his seventh pro season, hopes to lead the team to the playoffs under new coach Terry Stotts. AP

No, Aldridge never left the Trail Blazers, but this season is decidedly different for the All-Star forward.

"New pieces, new players, new locker room, new coach," he said. "Everything's new."

Of course, only time will tell whether that's a good thing or not.

The Blazers finished last season 28-38 and out of the playoffs for the first time in four years. They dismissed head coach Nate McMillan and let go of some of their more veteran players, choosing to build around Aldridge and swingman Nicolas Batum.

Aldridge, 27, is starting his seventh season with the Blazers. He's averaging 17.8 points and 7.5 rebounds for his career, but last season he averaged 21.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists while shooting a career-high 51.2 percent. And he made his first All-Star team.

Parallels could be drawn between this season and Aldridge's rookie year in 2006, when the team was trying to crawl out of the Jail Blazers era when it was known for its off-court trouble. But the 211-cm power forward says there's a difference this season.

"My first time, it was much more dramatic. It was a team that was trying to change its image. It was a team that had won 21 games in the regular season," Aldridge said. "So that time was a lot different than this one. This time we really have some good pieces, and I think guys are actually better this time."

Much of the cast that supported Aldridge in past seasons is now gone. Blazers starters Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby were traded away. Brandon Roy retired, but has come back this season with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Center Joel Przybilla signed as a free agent with the Milwaukee Bucks.

A new Blazers team emerged over the summer. It started when the Blazers hired general manager Neil Olshey, who spent the past nine seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Olshey went to work right away preparing for the NBA draft, and went on to land guards Damian Lillard and Will Barton and center Meyers Leonard. Olshey also won a chess match with Minnesota to keep Batum, who was a restricted free agent.

The Blazers' next internal move was to bring in head coach Terry Stotts, who was 115-168 as coach of the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks but spent the past four seasons as an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks, where he won a championship.



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