Yesterday, just after noon, LaMarcus Aldridge officially decided to leave Portland and signed a four-year, $80 million contract with the San Antonio Spurs. The biggest signing of 2015, and arguably the biggest in Spurs franchise history, Aldridge gives the Spurs immediate help in boosting their already stellar starting five, and long-term consistency with the core of LaMarcus and Kawhi until one of them chooses to retire.
Meanwhile, we as fans of other teams get to stop hearing the phrase "Built Not Bought." It's the small victories, guys.
LaMarcus finished arguably his best season last year with 23 points and 10 rebounds per game. A consistent player, Aldridge has shot around 50 percent from the field for his whole career. He's a great player, and a great fit in San Antonio's system. Oh, and he absolutely torched the Rockets two years ago in the first round of the playoffs.
Since the Harden trade, the Rockets have generally played and matched up well against San Antonio, splitting the wins and losses evenly at 6-6 since 2012. Were every Spur and Rocket to retire tomorrow, the matchup would still be tough and still be hard fought for rivalry's sake alone, and next season will be no exception. Adding Aldridge to the rivalry only makes for more entertaining basketball, and a bigger challenge for Houston.
It is very easy, at this point, to be discouraged as a Rockets fan. There was real hope that Morey might pull off another miracle, work out some sign and trade and land Aldridge after predicting a quiet summer. These were all technically feasible options, and in the wake of a meeting in which Aldridge was apparently floored, hope began to grow. Of course, none of these options came to fruition.
Sure, those four games a year against San Antonio will be some of the most challenging of the Rockets' next 82. However, with Aldridge moving, the entire landscape of the Western Conference has shifted. The powers have essentially been consolidated, if you will, to the Southwest division, with Golden State still looming in the Bay. Portland is now in rebuilding mode. The Clippers are suffering at the hands of a great coach and terrible GM who happens to be the same person. The Lakers are doing... wait, what are the Lakers doing? There could be some surprises in Minnesota and some improvement in Utah, but otherwise, I would venture to say the Western Conference has overall gotten worse, even though some teams have gotten better.
Meanwhile, though this signing should drastically improve the Spurs, it in no way makes the Rockets worse. Houston has been lucky enough to have a team that has improved through good signings and smart trades before and during the last three seasons, so staying put can understandably start to feel like falling behind. However, this team is good, maybe great. Its players have gotten significantly better as time has gone on. The best player on the squad is 25.
And, one team being good is not in any way a reason to panic. You don't shy away from the good teams. You go beat the good teams. You come back from being down 3-1. You win 56 games despite your second best player being out for half the season. You respond to a devastating playoff exit with Southwest Division title. You go play every night with the mentality that you can win every night because you can win every night.
So no, I'm not happy that LaMarcus Aldridge is on the Spurs. But the Rockets shouldn't be be worried. The Rockets should be ready.