LaMarcus Aldridge Closes Out Storied Career

Durant, Green, Nash and Marks reflect on center's sudden retirement

LaMarcus Aldridge announced the sudden end to a storied career on Thursday due to health reasons, and on Friday members of the organization reflected on a player whose stay with the Nets was short, but whose NBA legacy is assured.

“I’m not sure anybody can honestly comprehend what LaMarcus was thinking and what he was going through, and I’ll be honest, I don’t want to be the first person to try and figure that one out,” said general manager Sean Marks. “I sympathize with LaMarcus. This obviously was not an easy decision for him after a remarkable 15-year career. What he gave up in order to come and be a Net, even though it was for a short period, speaks volumes for who is and what he was about. We wish him and his family nothing but the best and hopefully a lifetime of health and happiness and he’ll always be remembered for what he did on the court.”

In a statement released on Instagram on Thursday morning, Aldridge said he had experienced an irregular heartbeat during the last game he played for the Nets against the Lakers last Saturday, and it worsened after the game that night. He described it as “one of the scariest things I’ve experienced.”

“You always feel for a guy who has given his life to the game and you know, loves to play and was excited to be here and clearly was going to play a role for us," said Nets head coach Steve Nash. "Most importantly, though, he avoided a terrible situation in a sense. You feel sad for him that he’s not playing but you feel happy that he made a sound decision and is comfortable with his decision and that he can be healthy and have a great life with his family and that is more important than basketball. So, we really just are grateful for his time here but are grateful that he’s at home with his family and that he can decide what’s next for him and live a long life.”

After being drafted second overall in 2006, Aldridge spent his first nine seasons with Portland before playing the last six with San Antonio and the Nets, signing with Brooklyn on March 28.

He retires with 19,951 points after averaging 19.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, shooting 49.1 percent from the field. Aldridge earned five All-NBA honors and was selected for seven All-Star Games. At 6-foot-11, Aldridge was a gifted scorer operating out of the post and an elite mid-range shooter before he stretched his game to the 3-point line the last two seasons.

“He played an incredible couple weeks here with us, but his 15 years in the league was elite, Hall of Fame level, and I can remember when I was visiting Texas, he was my host on my visit,” said Kevin Durant, who was the No. 2 pick out of Texas a year after Aldridge was the same. “And then to finish his last game to play with me, to play with him in his last game was pretty surreal. But I’m glad he made that decision. I’m glad that he can move forward with his life.”

Nets forward Jeff Green, who arrived in the NBA a year after Aldridge, concurred with Durant’s Hall of Fame asessment on Aldridge. Green endured a health scare early in his career, missing all of what would have been his fifth NBA season in 2011-12 and undergoing surgery for an aortic aneurism.

“Given the situation, I’m happy for him,” said Green. “For me, having gone through heart surgery, health is very, very important. This basketball life, he did 15 years and a great 15 years. For me, it’s about health first. You want to be around for your kids, your family, your wife. I think that’s most important, and you’ve got to take care of yourself first. He made the decision to step away and i fully support him on that.”

Nets veterans like Green, Durant, and DeAndre Jordan, and competed against Aldridge for more than a decade before he joined them in Brooklyn, and Nash did so as well during the last few years of his career. Marks was briefly a teammate with Aldridge in Portland.

So though Aldridge ultimately played just five games for the Nets, there’s plenty of history throughout the organization with one of the league’s highly respected players, and Marks said Aldridge was welcome to be involved with the Nets going forward.

““I think what he's done over the course of his career, just from an IQ standpoint, he can help and we can obviously benefit from having him in a locker room and around,” said Marks. “And the door’s 100 percent open for him whenever he wants to come back through here and be around. I know he's seeing some specialists right now, and the priority is for him to do to really take advantage of this time and prioritize his health over anything else. So yeah; when he's available, yes we'll welcome him back and hopefully he will definitely come around.”

Aldridge’s retirement is the latest chapter in Brooklyn’s center saga this season. The Nets went from shorthanded after the Jarrett Allen trade to a crowd with the return of Nic Claxton and the additions of Aldridge and Blake Griffin on the buyout market. Another addition of that caliber is unlikely.

“It’s a quandary where we're at right now, where you cannot replace LaMarcus,” said Marks. “And you're not going to find another LaMarcus just sitting out there waiting for us.”

The Nets will have options going forward at the position, from Jordan and Claxton to small-ball 5s with perimeter and playmaking skills like Green and Griffin. As Marks referenced, though, Aldridge brought a distinct skill set with his post scoring and passing. He combined Jordan’s size with Green’s shooting range.

While Aldridge had stepped right into the starting lineup for Brooklyn, flexibility may be the focus going forward.

“I think it’s more matchup-based for us,” said Nash about declaring a starter. “I don’t think it makes sense to just pencil something in if the matchups aren’t more favorable for us. When you look at our fives – DJ, Nic, Blake, Jeff – they all bring something different. They all have a different profile. I think that is to our advantage to mix and match on a night-to-night matchup basis. It gives us what we think could be a perceived advantage or the lesser of two evils when you face some superstars I think that’s probably the way we approach things continually.”

“We just try to create positives out of everything,” said Green. “With injuries, next man up. Supporting guys that are getting playing time because guys are out and making sure that they’re comfortable with coming in and being themselves and helping us win games. Through all that, we’re still in a great position heading into the playoffs, so I think we’ve dealt with it fine, but we’ve just got to continue to be better, continue to support each other and that’s what we have been doing.”

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