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LaMarcus Aldridge returns from a ‘scary night’ to face ‘unfinished business’

NBA: Brooklyn Nets-Media Day Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

When LaMarcus Aldridge first broached the subject of a return from a hasty, medically driven retirement, with Sean Marks, the Nets GM advised him to forget it. Aldridge had a relationship with Marks. The two overlapped when Aldridge was a player for the Spurs and Marks was the assistant GM.

“He did try to sway me,” Aldridge said Monday, echoing what Marks himself had said last week. “Sean’s a great guy, a very understanding guy.”

“I said, ‘Why? You don’t need this. Why would you come back?’ ” the Nets’ GM told the media. “[But] I think it’s important to see the conviction.”

Conviction there was. As Aldridge noted Monday, he went to specialist after specialist in the Northeast and Texas and got their unanimous consent to head back to an NBA gym. Considering how much he liked playing for Brooklyn in April, Aldridge had only one address in mind. He may have spoken to one other team — reportedly the Heat — but he was ready to continue what he described as “unfinished business.”

“Because I wasn’t ready to stop for one, and two, I was helping — I’m biased — I was helping the best team in the NBA win games and I was fitting in well and I was having fun and I was enjoying basketball,” Aldridge said, saying watching the NBA Finals with the Nets disturbed him. “So that’s why. I still love the game. I’m still capable of helping this team win. I still can bring something to the table. So that’s why. I still love the game and I want to play.”

Aldridge started five games in April, averaging 12.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists while hitting four of his five 3-point attempts. But on April 10, against the Lakers in California, he began to experience heart arrhythmia. It was a condition he had dealt with before but the checklist his doctors had given him to halt the symptoms wasn’t working. It became a “scary night,”

“It was a combination of things that I’d never experienced,” Aldridge said. “It was an overwhelming 24 hours of new experiences with a heart condition. … It was a very scary night for me.”

That was his last game. A couple of days later, he announced his retirement with a statement. So Monday was the first time he had spoken about the trauma and fear he faced ... and how he overcame it. He admitted that even though he retired, he never thought of himself as “done done,” giving himself just a little psychic wiggle room, aka hope.

It started slowly with attempt to return to everyday life, starting with time building up to other things. He did a gig offering analysis on NBA broadcasts, dabbled in real estate, but he wanted back in the game, back in the arena. So he began talking to specialists who along with advice to deal with his issue cleared him. He was cleared by his own doctors, NBA doctors and Nets doctors.

By September 2, he was ready to go. By September 3, he was back on an NBA roster.

He jokingly described his layoff between retirement and reinstatement a “five month long All-Star break.” In an interview in June with Shams Charania spoke glowingly about his short time with the Nets.

“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.”

Now, he’s back and with friends like Kevin Durant and Patty Mills. Aldridge and Durant have been friendly since Aldridge hosted Durant on a University of Texas recruiting trip. The Nets are the third team the two have played for following stints with the Trailblazers and Spurs. “I can’t get rid of the guy,” Mills joked. “Been trying to shake him for 12 years or my NBA career!”

Although he said the two had not spoken about his decision to return, Mills said “just seeing him in the locker room is very pleasing. I know he’s been through a lot to get back here. He’s excited and ready to go.”

And as KD mentioned, he has a milestone awaiting him. He’s only 49 points shy of 20,000 career points. It would have been a shame if that had eluded him, Durant said. Now, he has a chance. Who knows how many games that will take. The Nets front court is now faced with overpopulation. That’s not bothering Aldridge. He knows he’s playing with house money now after his un-retirement.

“After everything I did over the last five months to get back,” Aldridge said, “I’m going to go out on my own terms.”