LaMarcus Aldridge stunned the basketball world when he retired during the season over concerns from an irregular heartbeat. He then stunned everyone again when he returned to the NBA and re-signed with the Brooklyn Nets. The veteran, who’s now entering his 16th season, has a chance to be a part of a championship contender featuring the likes of former MVPs Kevin Durant and James Harden.
Aldridge came back for a number of different reasons, as he explained during Nets Media Day. One of those reasons involved having to watch his team fall in the second round to the Milwaukee Bucks.
LaMarcus Aldridge came back after receiving medical clearance
Aldridge has Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a condition that causes the heart to beat abnormally fast for periods of time. While it had been manageable for the duration of his career, symptoms arose during an April 10th game against the Los Angeles Lakers that caused the 6-foot-11 big man to step away from basketball. Aldridge played in just five games for the Nets before announcing his retirement.
“So as soon as I made my announcement, I went home and then I started seeing my doctor there,” Aldridge told YES Network. “We started doing tests and trying to see what was up. [We] did some tests and then everything came back kind of normal. It wasn’t completely normal, but it was normal. Then I started to go on the court and do some things.”
According to Alex Schiffer of The Athletic, Aldridge was initially only running on a treadmill to stay in shape. But as he passed tests and worked through benchmarks with ease, he started to feel like a return to the NBA was possible.
“I would say maybe a month or two after I retired I started feeling like, ‘You know what, this is possible, so let me start trying to call my agent first and then see how to reverse this,'” Aldrige said. “I started with [my] doctor there and then I ended up here. It was a long five months but it was worth it.”
Aldridge was also motivated by the Brooklyn Nets’ playoff loss
When Aldridge joined the Nets, he expected to be a part of a championship contender. So when Brooklyn lost in the second round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs to Milwaukee, the 36-year-old felt like he could have been the difference-maker.
“I watched every game. And then one game in particular [Game 7] where we needed just one bucket, I was like, ‘I can give them a bucket.’ And it was just tough to watch [them] because I knew I could help. … But I’m back now, so hopefully, I could do it now.”LaMarcus Aldridge
The Nets could have used LMA in their series against the Bucks. Harden missed Games 2 through 4 in the series, while Kyrie Irving sat out Games 5 through 7. In Game 7, the game Aldridge referenced, Durant’s 48 points weren’t enough to win it for Brooklyn, who fell 115-111 in overtime. But another reason Aldridge wanted to return is simple: his love for basketball.
“I still love the game,” Aldridge said. “I’m still capable of helping this team win. I still can bring something to the table. So that’s why [I’m back]. I still love the game and I want to play.”
Aldridge and the Nets are loaded
At his best, Aldridge is a seven-time All-Star with career averages of 19.4-points and 8.2-rebounds per game. If nothing else, he provides a valuable veteran presence to arguably the deepest team in the league.
The Nets have built a roster that’s impressive beyond Durant, Harden, and Irving. Blake Griffin is another former All-Star who found a home in Brooklyn last season. Joe Harris is one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA, let alone on this offensive juggernaut. The Nets have also added veterans Patty Mills and Paul Millsap, as they attempt to claim their first championship in franchise history.
“I’m not a GM, but I think [the roster] is very versatile,” said Aldridge. “We can play small ball with Blake [Griffin], Paul [Millsap], and then we can play big with myself or Clax [center Nicolas Claxton]. So I feel like it’s very versatile, and in this NBA, you have to be able to play both.”
Whether it’s big or small ball, head coach Steve Nash will deploy Aldridge fairly regularly. The veteran started all five games last season with Brooklyn, averaging 12.8 points in 26 minutes. With DeAndre Jordan gone and Griffin serving as his primary competition for starts, it would be surprising if Nash didn’t start LMA more often than not.
Aldridge has achieved his goal of returning to the NBA. Now, the former All-Star will shift his focus on an NBA championship.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.