Gregg Popovich put a whole new spin on an offseason conversation that helped turn around one of the Spurs’ star players

  • San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said that LaMarcus Aldridge requested a trade over the offseason.
  • It had previously been reported that Popovich and Aldridge cleared the air during an honest conversation in which Aldridge expressed some unhappiness with his role.
  • Popovich told reporters that he told Aldridge he would not trade him and instead figured out how to better use him.

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich on Thursday made an eye-opening comments on an offseason conversation with star big man LaMarcus Aldridge.

It had previously been reported that Aldridge approached Popovich in the offseason to discuss unhappiness with the Spurs’ system and how the two could better work together. The conversation had reportedly cleared the air, with Popovich admitting he could do more to help Aldridge and the two feeling more comfortable about their relationship.

On Thursday, however, Popovich told reporters the conversation occurred because Aldridge came to him and requested a trade.

Asked what spurred Aldridge’s strong 2017-18 season, Popovich said, “When he said, ‘I want to be traded.'”

“It’s as simple as that,” Popovich said. “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 said he was frank with Aldridge, telling him the Spurs could not get an even trade for him, so they weren’t going to move him.

“I was very candid with him,” Popovich said. “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. I said, ‘But short of that, I’m your best buddy because you’re here for another year, and you ain’t going nowhere. Because we’re not gonna get for you talent-wise what we would want. So, let’s figure this thing out.’ And we did.”

Aldridge struggled to adapt to the Spurs system over the previous two seasons, with his production hitting a low in the playoffs, as he averaged just 16 points and 7 rebounds per game. This year, in part because of the absence of Kawhi Leonard for much of the season, Aldridge has been revitalized, averaging 22.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game on 49% shooting for the 28-15 Spurs.

Popovich on Thursday said that he was handling Aldridge wrong by trying to turn him into a different player.

“It became apparent to me that it really was me,” Popovich said. “He’d been playing in the league for nine years. I’m not going to turn him into some other player. I could do some things defensively or rebounding-wise. But on offense, I was going to move him everywhere. That was just silly on my part, total over-coaching. So, we took care of it, and he’s been fantastic.”

The candidness from Popovich is somewhat stunning, as coaches rarely admit players asked for trades unless the player has been moved or is going to be moved. The Spurs seemingly did the opposite in the offseason by signing Aldridge to a three-year, $72 million extension.

It’s hard to argue with the results so far, and Aldridge and Popovich must be in a good place if Popovich is so willing to admit how the conversation occurred.