NBA Teams
Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer 33d

LaMarcus Aldridge praises Spurs, Gregg Popovich for 'open' talks

NBA, San Antonio Spurs

SAN ANTONIO -- Citing a newfound comfort level within the organization after a heart-to-heart talk over the summer with coach Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge expressed optimism about his role moving forward on Tuesday, a day after signing a three-year contract extension.

Per team policy, the Spurs declined to release details of the deal, but league sources told ESPN on Monday that the three-year contract is worth $72.3 million.

"I just went off of how I feel," Aldridge said when asked what went into his decision. "I feel like Pop's been great. I feel like this preseason has made me feel so much more comfortable out there. I've been myself, and I feel like I'm going to help us win. I went off how I felt, and just in the moment, I did it.

"I feel like the talks this summer were very constructive. I felt it was kind of needed, having the heart to heart where you just say how you feel. Pop has been great about the things that I've said I kind of needed or wanted. So far, it's been great."

Aldridge said that contract talks between the sides "just came out of the blue," but added the new deal somewhat assuages a tumultuous summer in which the team attempted to trade the power forward.

Aldridge struggled in the Western Conference Finals against Golden State in May with Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard out of the lineup. Then, during the offseason, the Spurs held discussions with multiple teams about potentially trading the forward.

Aldridge later requested a one-on-one meeting over the summer with Popovich to clear the air.

"He's Pop, so you've got to go at it a certain way," Aldridge explained. "As we all know, he's a different guy. But he's very open to listening. I did feel better after. I felt his response was even better. He was like, 'You're right.' At that moment, they started to kind of talk to me about things I like to do.

"I'm happy to have it behind me because it puts everything that happened this summer out of the door, and I feel like I'm going to be better this year."

To ensure that that happens, the team has preached more open communication this year. The Spurs are also working to find Aldridge for post-ups earlier in possessions this season. That, in turn, means Aldridge needs to do a better job of running the floor, he told ESPN.

Throughout the preseason, San Antonio's new approach with Aldridge seemed to be working. But keep in mind the team is still playing without Leonard, the team's top scorer, and Parker. Both are recovering from injuries and sat out of the preseason. Neither will be available Wednesday when the Spurs open at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Aldridge closed out the preseason in Houston on Saturday with 26 points and 10 rebounds to go with three assists and a pair of steals.

The positivity for Aldridge continued Tuesday with franchise icons Tim Duncan and David Robinson in attendance as general manager R.C. Buford greeted him with a hug and a handshake outside the locker room.

"I feel like this preseason has been great for myself, trying to find my rhythm and be myself," Aldridge said. "I feel like the offense has some tweaks where I'm feeling more comfortable, and I feel like I'm helping the team more.

"Pop told me he was happy for me. It just ended up working out for us. It's nice to have that out of the way for myself and the organization. I am happy to have it behind me."

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