Nets Notes: LaMarcus Aldridge Starts Fast for Brooklyn

Center posts 11 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists in Brooklyn debut

In his first game with the Brooklyn Nets, LaMarcus Aldridge stepped right into the starting lineup and looked like he’d been there all along.

After just handful of workouts with the team since signing on Sunday, Aldridge operated like a centerpiece of the offense, scoring 11 points with six assists and grabbing nine rebounds in a 111-89 win over the Charlotte Hornets at Barclays Center on Thursday night.

“It's just trying to find my spots to help these guys be better,” said Aldridge. “Try to open up the floor for Kyrie (Irving), James (Harden), (Kevin Durant). And you know, when teams switch, just go down low. So, I thought tonight was perfect. We had a good balance of inside/outside. Teams doubled me tonight, so I was just trying to find the open guy.”

The Nets were without Harden and Durant in this one, but with Aldridge playing a major role the offense operated seamlessly as the Nets made 13-of-21 3-pointers in the first half while shooting 56.5 overall in scoring 68 points, eventually extending their lead to 32 points in the third quarter.

While Aldridge’s first basket as a Net came on a 3-pointer, he largely punished the Hornets while working out of the post, alternately backing down defenders or connecting on mid-range jumpers. Running offense through the post is maybe the only element that’s been missing while the Nets have compiled some of the league’s best offensive numbers, and they have the ability to station an array of high-percentage 3-point shooters out at the arc for Aldridge to kick out to.

“He’s always been a threat down there in the post,” said Irving. “I think he’s missed posting up, so when we’re throwing it down to him and teams are switching, it gives us great opportunities to swing the basketball, but also go through LA which slows he game down tremendously like I said and we’re able to pick apart the defense like that as well instead of just coming off pick and roll and just getting downhill.”

That 3-pointer Aldridge hit early in the second quarter was the start of a run in which he scored or assisted on 15 straight Nets points and when he was done, after kicking out to Joe Harris for a 3-pointer, Brooklyn had a 52-24 lead.

“We targeted him some on switches, and then, they were switching on everything so we rolled him in the post and threw it in to him,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “He was able to score, but more importantly, he was able to draw two defenders and kick it out, some assists were for swing-swing and open threes. So that was effective. He’s an intelligent player, so regardless of whether he was in the post or he’s just playing basketball, he knows our team wants to play like that.”

It was also one of Brooklyn’s strongest recent defensive efforts as the Nets limited Charlotte to 34.9 percent shooting overall, and Nash credited the 6-foot-11, 35-year-old’s impact on that end as well.

“He’s a very intelligent defender,” said Nash. “He understands space and concepts. You can tell that he has experience. Regardless of the situation he understands what’s in front of him. He understands what he’s looking at. He’s able to read defensively very well. He was great. That’s another thing that’s not easy to do, defend NBA players after a month out. Thought he was very good.”

It was the first game action since Aldridge played his final game for San Antonio on March 1, but the five-time All-NBA pick didn’t look like he was dealing with any rust, or feel like it either.

“I have been working,” said Aldridge. “Just because you haven't seen me on TV or you haven't seen me on the stat sheet, I wasn't just sitting on my couch. You know, I'm an older guy so I know how to stay ready. I was surprised at how good my wind was because I thought I would definitely be more tired, but I felt great. But, offensively, you know, these guys just play well. And it's easy for those guys — I just, you know, read Ky. Just go to the block, basically just play my game on the defensive end, talking to these guys trying to just be at the rim and just being active defensively.”

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