Popovich pointed to that candid interaction with Aldridge as somewhat of a catalyst for the two coming to a better understanding before the start of the season. Asked what helped to bring about Aldridge's resurgent 2017-18 campaign, Popovich deadpanned, "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.'"
During training camp, Aldridge told ESPN that in a meeting over the summer with Popovich he "just spilled my heart about how I felt about how things were, and how things had been going."
Popovich acknowledged the meeting and said the two shared some laughs over what would seem to be tense moments.
"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.
"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 talentwise what we would want. So let's figure this thing out.' And we did. That's what we came to."
Aldridge averaged postseason career-lows in points (16.5 per game) and blocks (1.0) last season. In Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets, Aldridge finished with a career-low four points. Then, during the conference finals against the Golden State Warriors, Aldridge failed to step up and carry the team offensively with Kawhi Leonard hobbled by a sprained ankle, leading the coach to single out the forward during his postgame remarks for being "timid."
After sitting down with Aldridge over the summer, however, Popovich realized he had actually played a role in some of Aldridge's struggles.
"As discussions went on, it became apparent to me that it really was me," Popovich said. "He'd played in the league for nine years. I'm not going to turn him into some other player. I could do some things defensively or reboundingwise. But on offense, I was going to move him everywhere. ... That was just silly on my part -- total overcoaching. So we took care of it, and he's been fantastic."
Aldridge, 32, is averaging 22.6 points and 8.6 rebounds this season. Those averages have jumped to 26.8 points and 10 rebounds in five games this month.