IF YOU'VE BEEN a Portland Trail Blazers fan for a stretch of time, you've known a wild diversity of loss. You've lived through Greg Oden's long, depressing deflation of potential, punctuated by a staccato string of devastating injuries. You saw Brandon Roy battle against his doomed knees, fighting against the inevitable, like a basketball version of the horse from Animal Farm.
Sebastian Telfair was a firework whose wick never lit. Rasheed and Randolph saw their most significant successes while wearing a different team's uniform. Jermaine O'Neal never made a splash in the Rose City—like the NBA equivalent of a delicious sandwich that gets plucked from your office's refrigerator by the Indiana Pacers before you even had a chance to eat lunch because you got stuck working on the Dale Davis account. (This might be the most convoluted simile I've ever written. Mark it down. Mark Bryant it down.)
I bring up this litany of loss to say this: We've been through a lot, but if the rumors are true, and LaMarcus Aldridge (do you think he has a dog named LaBarkus Aldridge?) leaves the Blazers, it will be a new kind of loss, and we need to be prepared to cope with it.
LaMarcus has spent his entire career in Portland, he's still in his prime, the team is a contender, and the city loves him almost universally. And, still, he might leave as a free agent in just a few weeks. If you listen to the experts, it's a 50/50 proposition. So what do we do if he leaves? The way I see it, we have three options:
1. FINE THEN, FRIGGIN' GO, A-HOLE: Cleveland responded to LeBron's initial departure in such a manner. They burned his jerseys, called him a traitor, tore down his billboards, and generally kicked dirt on his good name. LeBron was young, though, and grew up near Cleveland. LaMarcus is pushing 30 and is from Texas. Plus, we should swerve from a path laid down by Cleveland in nearly every scenario. Still, if you choose this option, be prepared to say you never liked Aldridge that much and you think Meyers Leonard will thrive in his absence.
2. FLY, YOU BEAUTIFUL BUTTERFLY: LaMarcus gave us nine beautiful seasons. He rode the crests and valleys of the Roy/Oden era with us. He cleared the brush off the land that Damian Lillard turned into a basketball skatepark. He gave us the best years of his game, and we should not begrudge him the opportunity to go do what makes him happy. Sure, you'll always check the Blazers' box score first, but then you'll look to see how LaMarcus did... and you'll half-smile, then drive your stepkid to school.
3. KIDNAP LaMARCUS ALDRIDGE: I'M NOT SAYING WE SHOULD DO THIS, BUT IF YOU GET A LETTER IN THE MAIL FROM ME AND IT'S JUST AN ENVELOPE WITH A QYNTEL WOODS BASKETBALL CARD INSIDE, MEET ME AT THE FORT WORTH BIG AND TALL STORE AND BE READY FOR ANYTHING.