Of the two Longhorns big men  to come out early in the latter half of the Naughts, one of ’em, Kevin Durant, is genuine MVP candidate this season. The other, Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge (above, left), is something of an enigma in the considered view of the Oregonian’s John Canzano. “If Aldridge really wants to stop talking about being an All-Star and instead become one,” argues Canzano, “he needs to assert himself in crucial situations…he needs to view himself as the Blazers’ all-important No. 2 option, behind Brandon Roy.”

We hear all the time that Aldridge is sensitive to what people say about his play.

So how’s this: Get busy living or get busy dying, kid.

I’m not saying a month in the hole at Shawshank prison is what Aldridge needs, but when you look at the list of players who will play in the All-Star Game, you’re really making a list of talented, mentally tough players who assert themselves. That’s what separates the All-Stars from the wannabes, and right now Aldridge isn’t an All-Star.

I love his defense. I love that he can run the floor. I love that when he fails, he cares enough to stay late or show up early and work on his game. But is he working on the right things? It’s not enough to improve his strengths. He must commit to a low-post game instead of settling for his trademark fade-away jumper.

The $65 million contract extension he and his agent lobbied for?

Aldridge hasn’t earned the contract yet.

Maybe it’s that I’ve often seen Aldridge carry the Blazers early in games, setting the tone and taking the pressure off Roy. Maybe it’s that I’ve watched him evolve after his so-so starts so many times before. Maybe it’s because I’m not ready to discard him as a legitimate All-Star because he’s still young, and not playing alongside a true center.

The challenge facing Aldridge is bigger than making an All-Star team. Despite all their injuries, given the right matchup the Blazers still can win a playoff series — if Aldridge can become a consistent No. 2 scoring option.

LaMarcus, you listening?

Clearly, the Rose Garden locker room is a very, very noisy place, thus preventing Canzano from delivering a helpful, big-brotherly pep talk in person.