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LaMarcus Aldridge: retirement was ‘very, very tough’ but now the future beckons

Atlanta Hawks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

In talking with Sopan Deb of the New York Times, LaMarcus Aldridge reveals the depth of his depression after a heart ailment forced him to retire after fives into his Nets tenure and how good feels about this season ... and perhaps beyond.

Aldridge described how after he stepped out of the game so abruptly last April he had to adjust. No more texting with the guys, no more traveling, no more camaraderie.

“I’m to myself more than most, so the guys not texting me didn’t affect me. I don’t really text with guys now,” said Aldridge.

“But the whole traveling and your schedule, you have to figure out how to do it, how to fill that void. Because if you don’t, you end up feeling lost and kind of like, “What’s next?” That was very, very tough. Your first week or two is tough, because you go from busy, busy, busy to just — your phone’s quiet. Not even just from teammates. Just like, “Be at practice” or “Be at shootaround.” It goes from that to just this tranquil quietness that you could enjoy, but you’re also uncomfortable with, because you never had it.”

On the other hand, there was the understanding that he has survived the “one of the scariest” nights of his life when an irregular heart beat sent him to the hospital after his fifth and final game with Brooklyn.

Then, in September, after six months off and positive reinforcement from cardiologists, he was back in a Nets workout uniform running up and down the court and feeling no fear, only joy. He had been cleared by his own cardiologist as well as the NBA’s and the team’s.

“No. I feel excitement, joy, to be back doing what I love to do. And to have what happened and have it taken away so quickly, and to now be back in it, I feel joy. I’m thankful. I’m enjoying every minute of it as I’m out there. No fear. I went through enough testing where fear is no factor.”

And what’s the motivation, the goal?

“I wanted to fight through and come back and show that I still can play this game,” he said adding that he wanted to win a championship and “be a part of something special.”

So far, so good for Aldridge. He’s averaging 11.6 points and 5 rebounds on 62.9 percent shooting over nine games, none of them starts unlike his short stint last season. And he’s contributing in different ways. On Sunday, he scored only two points in 18 minutes but grabbed six rebounds and handed out five assists, That assist number is his highest since last January when he handed out six while playing 33 minutes. Moreover, he’s a big part of the Nets rising defense, supplying some surprising rim protection. He’s had three games where he blocked two blocks.

So what’s next? Is this is last year? He turns 37 in early July. Will he be thinking about retirement — and its challenges — again? Maybe not.

“I’m going year to year, but I definitely, how I feel now, how I’m moving now, I definitely have some more years in me. I feel rejuvenated, refreshed and just ready to go,” he told Deb.

He’s unlikely to get any argument from the Nets on that topic.