Gregg Popovich seemingly has seen it all over the course of 21 seasons as the San Antonio Spurs’ head coach, but a disgruntled player brought on a completely new experience for him over the summer.
Speaking with the media Thursday, Popovich revealed that LaMarcus Aldridge asked to be traded this past offseason. The report didn’t come as too much of a surprise, as rumors of Aldridge’s unhappiness in San Antonio surfaced on several occasions during the course of the 2016-17 campaign.
But for Popovich, a player wanting to flee the Spurs had been a foreign concept until Aldridge’s request.
“It’s as simple as that,” Popovich said, per ESPN’s Michael C. Wright. “I said, ‘Whoa, nobody’s ever said that to me before.’ It’s my 20-whatever year, and nobody’s ever said that, like, ‘I’m not enjoying this. I’m not confident. I’m not sure you want me here. I want to be traded.’”
Popovich and Aldridge ended up ironing things out over a few meetings and dinners. While these get-togethers were arranged to discuss a serious issue, Pop clearly wasn’t afraid to air out his dry sense of humor at the expense of Aldridge.
“So we had some dinners and meetings and laughed,” Popovich said. “I was very candid with him. I told him, ‘I’d be happy to trade you. You get me a talent like Kevin Durant, and I’ll drive you to the airport. I’ll pack your bags. And I will drive you there, get you on the plane, and get you seated.’ He laughed, you know, that kind of thing.”
And after all the hoopla, Aldridge has thrived in the first half of the season. Through 43 games, the veteran forward is averaging 22.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per contest. Not to mention, the Spurs currently own the third-best record in the Western Conference, which is a huge testament to Aldridge’s play, as Kawhi Leonard only has played in eight games this season.