By Associated Press • 

Aldridge to leave Portland, sign with San Antonio

LaMarcus Aldridge is heading back home to Texas and the San Antonio Spurs are heading back to the top of the list of favorites in the Western Conference.

One of the most coveted free agents on the market picked the Spurs over several suitors, including the Lakers, Heat, Rockets, Knicks, Mavericks, Suns and Trail Blazers, the team for which he played the first nine seasons of his career.

“I'm happy to say I'm going home to Texas and will be a Spur!!” the Dallas native tweeted. “I'm excited to join the team and be close to my family and friends.”

Aldridge averaged a career-high 23.4 points and also grabbed 10.2 rebounds per game while playing with an injured thumb last season for the Blazers.

But after nine years in Portland, he hit the free agent market with many assuming he was headed elsewhere, and the Spurs pounced. Aldridge took two meetings with the Lakers and the Spurs, who brought Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, coach Gregg Popovich and GM R.C. Buford to the first one on Wednesday.

Every team Aldridge met with was offering the four-year maximum contract worth an estimated $80 million.

Ultimately he picked the team that has won five championships since 1999.

The Spurs offered him a chance to play in his home state, a chance to join the most successful franchise of the modern era and a chance to take the torch from Duncan, who will return for a 19th season.

After winning the championship in 2015, the Spurs were eliminated in seven games by the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs this year. With their famed trio of Duncan, point guard Tony Parker and shooting guard Manu Ginobili aging, Buford and Popovich have deftly set up the long-term health of the franchise with several moves this summer.

They started by signing Leonard, the reigning defensive player of the year and the NBA Finals MVP in 2014, to a five-year max contract and also locked up shooting guard Danny Green on a four-year, $45 million deal.

Then they traded big man Tiago Splitter to the Atlanta Hawks to help clear some of the necessary salary cap room to land Aldridge, and it all paid off on Saturday.

Yahoo Sports first reported the agreement.

Aldridge's departure from Portland hastens a new era for the Blazers. They signed Damian Lillard to a five-year contract worth more than $120 million earlier this week, and the dynamic point guard will replace Aldridge as the new face of the franchise.

Blazers GM Neil Olshey also made several moves in preparation for Aldridge's departure. He sent Nicolas Batum to Charlotte for guard Gerald Henderson and second-year power forward Noah Vonleh, added big man Mason Plumlee in a draft-day trade with Brooklyn and signed versatile power forward Ed Davis to a three-year, $20 million deal.