When the Kevin Durant called LaMarcus Aldridge in early March, the recruiting pitch wasn’t that difficult. Aldridge, who had been sitting at home, knew what the Nets had, what they could do, knew how he could fit in.
“The only thing they wanted to get better was having a big that could score, and that’s what I do. And they wanted a shooter at the end of the games, but also a big that could guard bigger players. That’s who I am,” Aldridge told Shams Charania. “So the fit of what they wanted and needed was who I am.”
And when a month later, the 15-year veteran realized that cardiac issues would end his career, he again called KD.
“I felt like I wanted to hit him first, because he was owed that. And I think he was more in shock in the beginning because he didn’t really believe or understand what I was saying.”
Aldridge played only five games for the Nets, but started each one. In 26 minutes per game, he averaged 12.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.2 blocks. But in his last game vs. the Lakers on April 10 in Brooklyn, he began to feel some queasiness, as he told Shams.
“I had a weird game against the Lakers, my heart was just beating weird and out of rhythm. I had irregular rhythm the whole game, and I hadn’t experienced that before. Normally when I get on the court, my case study is that I would go into regular rhythm as I got my heart rate up. It had never been out of rhythm in a game and then it was out of rhythm for the Lakers game and I was just off and couldn’t get no energy. I just couldn’t get myself going. I couldn’t figure out what was going on.”
Then, that night, the queasiness turned to real fear. His heart rate was all over the place.
“My heart was beating different or as weird as it has ever been before. I never experienced how slow, fast … it was just crazy how it was going that night. I wanted to wait until the morning to get to the doctors to see what was going on.”
Then, after consulting with physicians, reality set in. He thought about his family and his personal future. Aldridge credited the Nets with giving him the time and space he needed.
“They were upfront and I thought they were great with (saying): ‘This is on you; we don’t know how you felt and how you feel, so we’re going to follow your lead.’” he said. “I thought that was awesome of them. I never felt any pressure to come back or make a decision based on the season. It was always: We fully understand what you’re going through, and so if this is what you want to do, you have our support.”
Aldridge had a relationship with Sean Marks. The two overlapped when Aldridge was a player for the Spurs and Marks was the assistant GM.
When Shams asked if missing the playoffs was the hardest part of leaving Brooklyn he agreed. The 35-year-old doesn’t own a championship ring. But beyond that, Aldridge said he’ll miss what the Nets have in Brooklyn, something he definitely didn’t take for granted.
“It was tough because I felt I was at a location and with a team that embraced me. I embraced them,” he told Shams. “We all had a common goal and we had chips on our shoulder to prove something. It was bitter for me. I had finally found the cohesiveness that I had wanted for a while in a group. And then all of a sudden I can’t play anymore.
“I felt if I stayed with the group, we definitely could get to the Finals and do something special. Those guys rooted for me just as much as I rooted for them. That’s what makes the game fun; when you have a bunch of guys with no egos and everyone’s cheering for each other to do well.”
Aldridge talked as well as how he wanted to stick around the Nets, but how COVID protocols has prevented that. He admitted he’s been depressed ... “When you go from doing something you love for so long and you lose it overnight, it’s a shock.”
The Nets have missed Aldridge, too. He was reliable and showed not only could he still man the post. He fit in nicely with the Nets spacing and spreading the floor. He made 80 percent of his three’s in those five games!
What’s next? He’s hoping for a coaching gig somewhere.
- A conversation with LaMarcus Aldridge: On the scary night that ended his career, battling depression, his biggest NBA regret and more - Shams Charania - The Athletic NBA
- LaMarcus Aldridge ‘depressed’ about missing out on Nets’ playoff run - Brian Lewis - New York Post