LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Durant missed each other by a year in college at the University of Texas. When Aldridge became available last week after agreeing to a buyout in his fifth season with the San Antonio Spurs, Durant moved quickly to make sure that 15 years later they wouldn’t have another missed connection.
“Brooklyn made it known right away that they were very interested,” said Aldridge. “KD hit me quick and said definitely come here. It was just waiting it out, weighing my options, and then I just ended up coming here. It’s a pretty good team and I definitely think I can help.”
So now Aldridge, in his 15th NBA season in a career that began with nine years in Portland, is in Brooklyn to fortify a frontcourt that continues to grow deeper in options. Like Blake Griffin, signed following a buyout as well three weeks ago, Aldridge has five All-NBA selections on his resume, along with seven All-Star Game selections.
The last of those was two seasons ago, and the 35-year-old, 6-foot-11 center was more focused on finding the right fit at this point.
“I’m not here to be an All-Star,” said Aldridge. “That’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m just trying to bring the value, try to bring the things I’m good at and trying to help this team win. I’m not worried about being an All-Star anymore; feel like I bring enough things to the team that should help and that’s all that matters.”
If not an All-Star, though, possibly a starter in Brooklyn. Head coach Steve Nash kept that possibility open for down the road, though it’s still to be determined when Aldridge — who practiced with the team on Tuesday — will next take the court. Aldridge last played for San Antonio on March 1. In a similar scenario with Griffin earlier this month, the Nets held him out through five games over nearly two weeks before he debuted on March 21, more than a month after he had last played for Detroit on Feb. 12.
Also like Griffin, Aldridge brings a different profile to the Brooklyn frontcourt, one that is getting crowded, with centers DeAndre Jordan and Nic Claxton, Griffin and Jeff Green as forwards or small-ball center options, and Kevin Durant working his way back from a hamstring injury.
Kyrie Irving and James Harden, Brooklyn’s two leading assist men, like Aldridge’s ability as a post-up option. Jordan and Claxton operate more as rim-runners or out of the dunker spot, and the Nets are 29th in the league with 3.7 post-ups per game.
“He's a scoring five,” said Nash. “He’s good in the post, he's good around the basket and you can also shoot it to 3. He’s kind like at 6-11, can stretch the floor like that is an interesting profile. Blake can make 3s; Blake’s more of a playmaker I think at this stage. LaMarcus is more of a post-up interior scorer who can stretch to 3, so slightly different profile. But yeah, most importantly, he brings experience and somebody that really wants to be here and wants to compete for a championship.”
Aldridge has career averages of 19.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game. He’s shot 49.1 percent for his career with a heavy dose of mid-range jumpers — 30 percent of his shots have come from 16-feet to the 3-point line, more than any other shooting zone. After years excelling in that area, over the last two seasons, Aldridge has begun to stretch his range. He averaged 0.45 3-point attempts per game through his first 13 seasons before taking 3.0 per game last season and 3.6 per game this season.
With Aldridge having shot 38.9 percent from 3-point range last season and 36.0 percent this season, Nash wants to encourage that trend, valuing the floor spacing that Aldridge can provide.
“I think I’d already started that in San Antonio,” said Aldridge. “I didn’t get as many mid-range. I still got ‘em, but we had already kind of started that process in San Antonio as far as trying to look for the three more. The thing is, when you have KD and James and all these guys; Kyrie is, I’m probably going to be wide open because those guys get so much attention. It’s going to be probably wide-open threes, so that makes it easier, but definitely I’m all on-board for it. I’ve worked on it. I was already doing it earlier this season, so that’s not an issue at all.”
This season, Aldridge has averaged 13.7 points and 4.5 rebounds in 25.9 minutes through 21 games with the Spurs. Aside from Durant, he has history with Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks, a once-upon-a-time teammate back in Portland who was also part of San Antonio’s front office when Aldridge first signed there.
“I am very comfortable. I knew Sean from San Antonio,” said Aldridge. “Sean did a quick stint in Portland at the end of his career, so I actually know him from there, too. So, great guy. Team guy. Player guy. So I definitely have had some good times with him and I have known Nash over the years going against him. So, it's nice to have him coaching and not going pick and roll, throwing the lob. So, it's been fun talking to those guys now, for sure.”