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LaMarcus Aldridge: Blazers fans 'don't understand why I left'

SAN ANTONIO -- Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge expects a not-so-warm welcome when he returns to Portland next season to face his former team, telling ESPN Radio's The Russillo Show on Monday that Trail Blazers fans "don't understand why I left."

A Texas native, Aldridge spent his first nine NBA seasons with the Trail Blazers before opting in free agency to join the Spurs.

"Portland holds a part of my heart that can't be changed," Aldridge said Monday. "Those are memories that will last forever. I think that city embraced me, and I embraced them. We grew together. We went from a team that [was] called the 'Jail Blazers' to actually being a team that everybody loved, and a team that everybody wanted to cheer for. So we had a great transition period together that I think both parties enjoyed.

"I think going back [to Portland] my first time might be boos because I think people are really hurt by my decision. They don't understand why I left. So I think my first game back, I probably will be booed."

A four-time All-Star, Aldridge, who averaged a career-high 23.4 points per game last season, also denied rumors of resentment toward Portland guard Damian Lillard as a reason for his departure to San Antonio.

Lillard recently told Yahoo! Sports that Aldridge contacted him before his decision to join the Spurs became public, saying, "we basically exchanged texts about how much admiration we have for each other."

Asked specifically about Lillard on Monday, Aldridge called him a "good guy," adding "we have no issue with each other, no animosity.

"We got along very well during the season. I thought we played well off of each other. So, all of that stuff is just rumors that I've dealt with before. Me leaving had nothing to do with any of that. It was just me feeling like being close to home, by my family, being able to see them more and just a change of scenery. I had been in Portland for nine years. I had been through a couple of rebuilds. So it was just time to try something new. It wasn't anything toward Damian or the organization."

The Spurs originally met with Aldridge on July 1, and the power forward met again with coach Gregg Popovich two days later. Throughout the process, Portland remained in the hunt for Aldridge's services, he said.

"It was really close. The only thing I can tell you is right before I made my decision, I called Portland and told them that they weren't in," Aldridge said. "So obviously, it went down to the last minute. It came down to Phoenix, Portland and San Antonio. Until the last minute, Portland was in the running. I've had so much history there. I'm engraved in their history books. I didn't want to leave all that behind. So that was tough."