SAN ANTONIO — Portland Trailblazers star Damian Lillard took over the team's Twitter account on Monday night to answer questions from fans, and one of those answers may have gotten him in some hot water.
In response to a question about what former teammate he would add to the current roster, Dame said "I'd add LaMarcus." The tweet has since been deleted, but screenshots are forever.
Somewhat surprisingly, Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge responded with the universal emoji for online drama, the eyeballs emoji.
Many brought up a valid question: is this tampering? The answer is complicated. Teams and team officials are not allowed to recruit players, but players are allowed to talk to each other freely.
So what happens when a player tells his former teammate he'd like to have him back using his team's official twitter handle? First, someone shrewd makes you delete the tweet in question. Next? We'll see.
Aldridge tweeted one emoji on Monday night, but it was enough to draw a firestorm of comments from Spurs fans. Some seemed taken aback, others questioned his commitment to the team, and some flat out told him to leave.
In a subsequent wide-ranging interview with Michael C. Wright of nba.com, Aldridge said he didn't mind all of the responses, and he tweeted the eyeballs as a joke because he was bored. Wright asked where he would like to end his NBA career to end, and Aldridge's response is unlikely to change the minds of any Spurs fans who feel he isn't sufficiently committed to San Antonio.
"I think I would be cool with it ending in two places, either with San Antonio or in Portland. I think either one would be fine with me. I feel like I’ve made some good memories in San Antonio. I feel like I’m in a really good family in San Antonio. They understand me. I understand them. So, I like that. I feel I have a lot of history in Portland. So, going back there to finish would be fine also. I’m perfectly fine with finishing my career in San Antonio riding it out until my next chapter, or if things have to change there, and if they decide to go young, then I wouldn’t mind going to Portland."
He essentially said he's happy here, but if the team decides to go in another direction, he would like to go back to the only other place he's called home in his NBA career. It's completely understandable and refreshingly honest, but many Spurs fans aren't happy that he's talking about potentially playing for another team while he's still under contract.
Even Kawhi Leonard said that he "um, definitely" wanted to end his career in San Antonio when he was already more than halfway out the door, and that wound still hasn't healed right in this city.
Wright asked Aldridge why he thinks fans question his commitment, and the seven-time All Star pointed to the time that he asked Gregg Popovich for a trade in 2017.
"Ever since, I feel like people just won’t let that go. But we talked that out, and that’s been done, been gone. So, I don’t know why people are still thinking about that. But ever since then, I’ve been locked in. I’ve been all-in. I’m just really looking forward for if we get a chance to try to get back in that eighth spot. If not, then I’m still looking forward to next season and seeing what we can do with the young fellas getting better."
He said that if the regular season does resume at any point, he feels pressure to get to the playoffs not just to extend San Antonio's record streak, but because of all the hard work this team has put in as a unit. He also mentioned the way he changed his game to better fit the needs of the team this season.
"I’ve done nothing but try to give what I can and try to do everything I can to help us win, try to do what I can for the team to help the team grow. I’ve tried to change my game to make the team better. I started really shooting 3’s this year to try to make us better and open up the floor for DeMar [DeRozan]."
Aldridge will be 35 when he starts the next season, his last under contract in San Antonio. Last year, he told a reporter for The Athletic that he has talked to Lillard about reuniting in Portland.
"I keep telling him I'm going to come back and finish [in Portland]," Aldridge said. "That's something him and I have talked about—playing together again."
In the interview with Wright, Aldridge talked about how he has patched things up with Lillard and the fans in Portland, who were disappointed when he left for San Antonio in 2015, and he has a fondness for the place.
"I feel like I had nothing but good times there. There were ups and downs like there’s going to be anywhere, but I came into the league there, grew into who I am there. So, of course, as you get older, you place value on those things."
His last tweet (before the eyeballs) was a #FlashbackFriday of him embracing another former Portland teammate, Jamal Crawford.