Nets’ LaMarcus Aldridge still adjusting to new bench role: ‘It’s been difficult’

25 Nov 2021 | 08:50 | NBA

Seven months ago, LaMarcus Aldridge thought his NBA career was over. In fact, it briefly was, as he announced his retirement in April due to an irregular heartbeat. But after consulting with doctors during the offseason, Aldridge was given the all clear to return to basketball and signed with the Brooklyn Nets.

Aldridge joined the Nets because he wanted to compete for a championship for the first time in his career. But while the Nets’ depth of talent has made them one of the favorites to win it all, it’s also forced Aldridge to come off the bench — an adjustment he’s still trying to figure out.

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“It’s very difficult. You’ve been one type of player or a certain type of player your whole career. It’s definitely different coming off the bench and not playing much,” Aldridge said via the New York Post. “So it’s been difficult. … I’m still trying to figure it out and navigate it and find my spots. And I’m just trying to find my ways to try and help out.

“It’s an ongoing battle,” Aldridge continued. “It’s not, you fix it and it’s done. You still have moments where it’s still tough to not be out there at times, and it’s still tough to not start at times. But I came back to win, and I wanted to be here and try to win it all. So, if that’s my role, it is what it is.”

From the time he entered the starting lineup for good as a rookie with the Portland Trail Blazers, to the time he was brought off the bench midway through last season with the San Antonio Spurs, Aldridge had started 1,045 consecutive games between the regular season and playoffs.

That’s an unbelievable streak that spanned 15 seasons and two teams. And when you’ve been used to a certain routine for over a decade it’s not easy to suddenly switch to something else. Especially when you’re also dealing with a comeback from a scary health situation.

But while Aldridge might not feel totally comfortable in his new role yet, you would never know it from the way he’s played. He’s been awesome for the Nets off the bench, putting up 13.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, while shooting 57.7 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from 3-point land. Among bench players he’s in the top 10 in scoring, rebounding and blocks. If the Nets can get this type of production from Aldridge all season long, that will give them a big boost in their title chances.